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Why governors must now appoint deputies

Friday July 10 2020
UK

President Uhuru Kenyatta signs six bills into law at his Harambee House office in Nairobi on July 9, 2020. PHOTO | PSCU

By DAVID MWERE

Governors will now be legally compelled to appoint their deputies should a vacancy arise in county governments.

This follows the signing into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta of the County Government (Amendment) Bill 2017 on Thursday.

The inking of the bill now puts Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, who has not had a deputy since January 2018 when Polycarp Igathe resigned in a huff, on the spot.

The bill was sponsored by Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, who has since been kicked out of the lofty perch of Senate majority leader.

NOMINATE DEPUTY

The law now provides that a county boss nominate another deputy within 14 days of the occurrence of a vacancy and forward the name to the county assembly for either approval or rejection within 60 days.

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In coming up with the bill, Senator Murkomen sought to cure the lacuna in the Constitution as well as in the County Government Act of 2012.

The drafters of the Constitution did not envisage a vacancy upon the death, impeachment or resignation of deputy governors.

At the time Mr Murkomen was coming up with the bill, Nairobi and Nyeri counties were facing constitutional and legal moments.

In Nyeri, Deputy Governor Mutahi Kahiga was sworn into office following the death of his boss Gakuru Wahome through a road crash on November 7, 2017.

In Nairobi, Mr Igathe resigned in January 2018 on account of failing to earn the trust of Mr Sonko.

Bomet County was also faced with a similar situation after Deputy Governor Hillary Barchok succeeded his boss Joyce Laboso following her demise in July 2019.

At the time, the senators were scratching their heads on how best to deal with the situation until the Supreme Court, in its advisory opinion of 2018, ruled that a governor can nominate another deputy within 14 days and forward the name to the county assembly for vetting.

Although Mr Mutahi and Mr Barchok went on to nominate their deputies in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling, Mr Sonko did not.

But whether the Nairobi governor, who was charged in court last year over corruption related scandals and consequently barred from accessing his official county office, will nominate his deputy is a matter for the courts to decide.

CORRUPTION

Last year, Mr Sonko and his Samburu colleague Moses Lenolkulal, who is also charged in court over corruption, tried to reorganise their respective governments, but Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji contested, saying the move amounts to abuse of the court orders on witness interference.

Until the Supreme Court ruling, the Senate was mulling a temporary measure to cure the situation.

A suggestion by Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior to have governors designate a county executive committee member had been accepted and approved by the Senate Legal Affairs Committee awaiting the enactment of the Bill.

“We are looking for a temporary solution. Unless we amend the constitution, the substantive governor should be able to nominate any of the CECs as designated deputy governor from time to time,” Mr Kilonzo Junior had said during a session of the Senate’s Devolution committee.

The new law also provides that should a governor die before taking the oath of office, the deputy governor will act for 60 days before a by- election is held.

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