Central government is subverting devolution

Friday March 22 2013

County representatives elected early this month were sworn in yesterday and, therefore, given the mandate to start executing their duties.

Next week, all the 47 governors will be sworn-in and, with that, operations of the county governments will begin in earnest.

Devolution forms a key plank in the 2010 Constitution. The reason behind it was that the citizens want to rule themselves and determine their destiny.

Since independence, the country has operated a unitary system of government, with policy and funding being controlled at the centre.

But the result has been unedifying; balkanisation and unequal development of the country, leading to marginalisation that subsequently found expression in the maddening violence five years ago. To this extent, therefore, devolution is seen as a panacea to historical inequalities.

Despite the expressed consensus that devolution is the path to go, there are concerted efforts from certain quarters to undermine the whole thing. First, governors-elect have been complaining across the country that they have no offices or residences.

Whereas there were earlier indications that they would take over offices previously held by the provincial or district commissioners, this has not happened. Only a few counties have clearly demarcated offices for governors.

Second, and quite important, the Transition Authority chairman Kinuthia Wamwangi has come out categorically to state that the provincial administration is there to stay.

One wonders where he got the authority to make that declaration. Unfortunately, this is part of a narrative that is mischievously being peddled by some people in government.

In breach of the Constitution

Last year, the Office of the President appointed county commissioners and deployed them to the counties in blatant breach of the Constitution. Indeed, the appointments were challenged in court, which ruled that they were unconstitutional and decreed that they cease to operate.

But the OP defied that verdict and, to date, those commissioners are still in office.

Article 17 of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution expressly provides for the reconstruction of the provincial administration in a form that accords to devolved government.

Moreover, the functions that were previously carried out by the provincial administration, like security, have been domiciled within the relevant departments.

An argument has been advanced that they should remain to co-ordinate functions of the national government at the grassroot level, but there is no framework for that.

The operating principle is that governors and county assemblies will take charge of the local government. Provincial administrators have no role in this and their continued stay is anachronistic, considering that they are a relic of the colonial past.

Having elected governors and representatives to the county assembly with the express mandate to manage county governments, it is paramount that they must be supported to get down to work.

Those in the central government, especially the team at OP, who are plotting to undermine devolution through devious machinations, including administrative fiats, are daydreaming and must be stopped right on their tracks.