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Punguza Mizigo bill: Aukot suffers another blow in Busia

Monday October 14 2019

Thirdway Alliance leader Ekuru Aukot

Thirdway Alliance leader Ekuru Aukot addresses journalists on the Punguza Mizigo bill at the party's headquarters in Lavington, Nairobi, on September 12, 2019. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

GAITANO PESSA
By GAITANO PESSA
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Confusion marred voting in Busia on Monday for politician Ekuru Aukot's Punguza Mizigo bill, with members of county assembly rejecting key proposals including scrapping the deputy governor position.

After a debate that lasted about three hours, Speaker Benard Wamalwa put the bill to vote through routine mass acclamation.

Silence followed his first call, with only one person responding to his question on whether to pass or reject by the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee.

After briefly consulting Deputy Speaker Lawrence Okaale, it emerged that members had not understood the routine question so the Speaker made a second call.

He asked, “Honourable members. I will now put the question this way; How many members sitting today in this assembly are for the Punguza Mizigo bill?”

This question returned one - interestingly from committee chair Gardy Jakaa, who is also Bukhayo North Walasti Ward Representative.

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The rest said they did not approve of the bill by Dr Aukot, leader of Thirdway Alliance Party.

DEVOLUTION

The 21 Busia ward reps who discussed the bill said that passing it would erode gains made since enactment of the 2010 Constitution that brought about devolution.

Majority Leader Laban Mukhwana noted that reducing the number of constituencies would throw the country back to the "dark days, when service delivery was a struggle for citizens".

“Reducing the number of constituencies will result in a situation where majority tribes will continue to dominate minorities in representation. The document doesn’t meet the threshold to warrant an amendment of the Constitution,” said Mr Mukhwana.

However, he lauded Dr Aukot for coming up with the document, which he said serves as a wake-up call and a reminder that the Constitution is ripe for review.

PUBLIC'S VIEWS

In his submissions, Minority Leader Felix Omanyi said other county assemblies rejected the bill since public participation was inadequate.

While admitting that runaway corruption and misappropriation of public resources have denied citizens much-needed services, Mr Omanyi (Bunyala Central) also differed with Dr Aukot on the 30-days time frame for prosecution of suspects of corruption.

“We shall be taking people to court and freeing them the next day for lack of substantive evidence. The period is too short to prosecute a case of corruption considering that a number are yet to reach conclusive ends yet it has been years."

Amukura West MCA Abiud Ochilang’ole observed that while increasing financial allocations to counties would accelerate development, abolishing the Constituency Development Fund would be an injustice.

“The CDF plays a vital role in constituencies. The proposal should have considered establishing similar funds at ward level to complement the kitty.”

DEPUTY GOVERNOR

Members also rejected the proposal to remove the position of deputy governor saying it was an equalising factor in some counties.

“The position resembles that of the the Deputy President at national level. We should be thinking of strengthening the office to make it more robust,” said Nambale Township MCA Mwajuma Toloi.

In his address to the assembly in September, Dr Aukot said the success of the bill would see the country save at least Sh3.78 trillion of the annual budget.

The bill which seeks to amend the Constitution proposes an increase in the revenue share allocation to counties from current 15 to 35 per cent.

It also proposes that all the 1,450 wards be used as primary units for accelerated development, replacing the National Government Constituency Development Funds (NG-CDF).

Other proposals include scrapping of the position of woman representative, reducing of the number of members of Parliament from 416 to 147 and introducing one seven-year term for the President.