By Jacob Ng’etich
NAIROBI, KENYA: In what is likely to be construed as yet another assault by the Executive on devolution, the Office of the President has downgraded the National Transition Authority (NTA) to a mere entity in the ministry of Devolution and Planning.
Even worse is the move to starve the organisation that, according to the Transition to Devolved Government Act, 2012 is supposed to provide a legal and institutional framework for a co-ordinated transition to the devolved system of government. In a letter signed by President Uhuru Kenyatta to the Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury, which The Standard on Sunday has a copy, NTA has not received any allocation from the Consolidated Fund unlike last financial year. The letter that was received by the Financial Secretary and the Accountant General on July 1, details allocations for all the ministries, commissions, agencies and the independent government offices, NTA missed out despite receiving funds from the Consolidated Funds.
The move handicaps NTA that is constitutionally required to begin phase two of the transition period by providing for policy and operational mechanisms for audit, verification and transfer to the county governments of assets and liabilities.
The latest development is bound to give credence forces in the opposition, who have maintained that the Uhuru-Ruto Government is out to frustrated devolution. In a recent interview, CORD leader, Raila Odinga told The Standard On Sunday that Jubilee is neither committed to rolling out devolution nor executing the new Constitution.
In a General Warrant Financial year 2013/2014 signed by the President on June 28, to the National Treasury Secretary, the Head of State authorised the use of money from the Consolidated Fund for the ministries, commissions and other authorities but does not mention NTA as part of the beneficiary.
NTA got a rude shock when their budget of Sh11.9 billion, which they presented to the Parliamentary Committee on Budgets was not only slashed heavily but will be controlled by the Principal Secretary of Devolution and Planning.
During the last financial year the organisation acquired an Asset Management and Information System and established an integrated National and County Assets Register at a cost of Sh28 million as it prepared to do asset listing, audit and liabilities for transfer to the two governments. According to a member of the authority who sought anonymity, NTA that has been supporting more than 600 interim members in all the counties towards the implementation of devolution, will now face block.
The move comes at the time the Supreme Court prepares hearing on Tuesday next week of a case the Senate filed seeking interpretation on whether Uhuru acted lawfully when he assented to the Division of Revenue Bill.
Senators have vowed to have a spirited political and legal battle to defend the devolution that they claim is under attack by the Executive and the National Assembly.
Many senators, including those in the Jubilee Coalition, think Uhuru and his Deputy William Ruto have been isolating the Senate in discussing crucial legislative business. “The President and Deputy President seem convinced that the Senate is a lower House,” a Jubilee senator said, adding the contest within Jubilee centres on relations with State House. These factors have proven so disruptive that Uhuru and Ruto have reportedly felt the need to reprimand three key allies over the squabbles.
“They have been holding meetings with members of the National Assembly yet members of the Senate have not been invited to any such meetings despite the crucial role the senate has on devolution.” Uhuru and Ruto have met Jubilee MPs on various occasions, including earlier this week, to discuss various legislative issues. The Tuesday meeting was primarily to discuss the unpopular Bill on VAT.
Another meeting is planned for Monday with no indication Senate members are invited. “Can anyone convince you that since (the March 4) elections, there has never been any serious business (on which) the President and his deputy felt consultation with senators was important?” asks another senator.
“This is why we feel the treatment we are getting from the National Assembly has now gone beyond Parliament.” Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen who chairs Devolution Committee at the Senate has indicated that the House that currently seats at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre will continue to champion for the full implementation of devolution.
The Senate has accused the President of undermining devolution when he signed the Sh210 billion that Parliament had voted for to the counties as opposed to the Senate’s sh258billion allocation to all counties.
Baringo County Senator and chairman of the Senate committee on Energy, Roads and Transport Gideon Moi said the Senate would seek a million signatures from the public to revert the situation.