ODM leader Raila Odinga says his March 9 handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta is alive and well.
He told members of county assemblies that a smooth working relationship between the two levels of government and within counties is critical for the country to realise the full benefits of devolution.
“The initiative is alive and running. Your views and actions will be critical to the realisation of the objectives of the initiative, especially with regard to strengthening devolution,” Mr Odinga said.
In a speech read on his behalf by Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri at the Third Annual Legislative Summit in Mombasa on Thursday, Mr Odinga said he and President Kenyatta had identified the fight against corruption and strengthening devolution as key to ensuring the success of the “Building Bridges” initiative.
The unity deal signed between the two leaders has come into focus due to the growing animosity between Mr Odinga and his allies on the one hand, and Deputy President William Ruto and his allies on the other.
The animosity is seen as putting the pact to the test.
Just last week, President Kenyatta rebuffed Mr Odinga’s call for a referendum to change the Constitution and also alter the structure of the Executive and devolution if their March 9 deal is to succeed.
On Thursday, Mr Odinga told the MCAs that their main role is making laws and oversight, and warned them against taking part in implementing policies, or procuring goods and services.
“A clear separation of roles will work in favour of MCAs, and even senators.
"It will ensure that each team in the county leadership carries its own cross,” Mr Odinga said in remarks that appeared to oppose the clamour for the ward development fund, which MCAs put up a spirited fight for during the conference.
“It is a fact that lack of clarity in the roles of MCAs and county executives has seen MCAs and senators blamed for failures that should be blamed squarely on county executives.
"Equally, members of the county Executive have been blamed for failures of the county assemblies,” he said.
Mr Odinga added that a clear separation of roles will exonerate elected leaders from blame for failures they are not responsible for and urged the MCAs and senators to avoid situations where their interests conflict.
“You are the leaders on the ground. You live there. You work there. You have no reason not to provide strong and clear leadership that makes your communities pursue a common agenda,” he said.
Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka reminded the MCAs and senators of their constitutional and larger leadership obligation to serve Kenyans by ensuring that the laws they make have an impact on development.
“Our deliberations have re-emphasised the central role of the county assemblies in delivering the “Big Four” agenda. Let us take our oversight, legislative and representative roles seriously,” he said.
He challenged the county Assemblies to pass budgets with realistic estimates or projections, saying that overestimating projected revenues is hurting the counties, resulting in huge pending bills.
He said public participation must be ingrained in decision-making at the counties but noted that it has to resonate with the “specific publics”.