The High Court in Murang’a has made a ruling that will have far-reaching implications for county assemblies.
It has outlawed the position of Deputy Speaker in the county assembly on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. The court said the office is neither provided for in the Constitution nor in the County Government Act, and hence should be scrapped.
Significantly, the ruling spotlights a lacuna in law, which has created room for the assemblies to create an office never anticipated in the structure of the assemblies. But this provides a chance to debate the matter and make a resolution that should then be entrenched in law.
The starting point is to look at the law governing the management of Parliament. On this, the Constitution expressly creates the positions of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker. Further, it provides that the Speaker, who is elected by the House, should not be an MP. However, the Deputy Speaker is elected among the MPs, so is first and foremost a legislator but takes the additional role of handling Speaker’s duties in his or her absence.
Apparently, the counties borrowed from this practice but they failed to take cognisance that the arrangement is anchored in law. It is not just a creation of the Standing Orders, which are secondary to the Statutes and the Constitution.
In the circumstance, the question that ought to be addressed is, why did the framers of the Constitution omit the position? Do county assemblies need deputy speakers? If yes, then the next step should be to seek legal redress. This requires that a proposition is made to amend the County Assemblies Act to align it to the realities on the ground. However, a lot of work and discussion is required to justify such a proposal.
The public must be convinced that there is a justification in creating that position and that it would add value to the management of the assemblies. The converse is that the public is averse to additional layers of public officers as they largely in-crease costs but pay little dividends.
Perhaps, the best option is for county assemblies to take a leaf from Parliament and establish a Speaker’s Panel, where they pick a team from among the members of the county assembly who can sit in, on an ad hoc basis, when the Speaker is away.
Overall, the ruling has opened an avenue for a candid discussion on the management of the county assemblies.
The focus should be interrogating the various positions to determine their legality and viability and do away with those that are superfluous.