The objective of devolution was to disperse resources and decision-making to the local level. Underlining this is the principle of equitable resource sharing and community empowerment. However, devolution is at risk due to constant bickering between governors and Ward Representatives on one hand, and governors and the national government on the other.
Starting with the latter, governors have persistently complained of being short-changed by the National Treasury. First, they argue that they hardly get funds on time. Secondly, it never comes in full as the budgets are routinely slashed. The result is that the counties are unable to deliver services. Not that they’re perfect. Examples of sterling performance exist but, often, counties have become the new hubs for corruption, wastage and pilferage. Grand projects have been left to rot away.
On their own, counties can’t raise revenues, which really was one of the goals of devolution — that they would be facilitated but also leverage on their unique potentialities to generate own cash. That is the basis for county systems; they are meant to be units for social, political and economic growth. Counties should not rely on the national government for sustenance.
However, a more serious threat to devolution is the local level governance. All round, there are reports of constant fights between governors and the MCAs. In the past two weeks, the contest was in Kirinyaga County, where MCAs impeached Governor Anne Waiguru on impropriety claims. However, the impeachment was vetoed by the Senate on the grounds of lack of evidence and the allegations not meeting the threshold.
Lately, attention has shifted to Kitui County, where MCAs are seeking to oust Governor Charity Ngilu, again over claims of impropriety. On Monday, the leadership of the county assembly directed security officers to throw out Mrs Ngilu’s lawyers when they attempted to enter the assembly to defend her as had been directed. We condemn the manner in which the lawyers were thrown out; that was unacceptable and inimical to the rule of law.
Broadly, we are witnessing the return of the rule of the jungle at the local assemblies, a practice that was prevalent among councillors under the defunct local authorities. The role of MCAs is to provide oversight over county managers, not to bully and frustrate the executives, more so when their intention is to squeeze cash from them.
We need order in the counties and call on MCAs to play their rightful role methodically, but within the law. They have to stop constant harassment of governors.