By Stephen Makabila
The State University of New York (SUNY) through USAID has taken over as the main financial facilitator of an on-going training programme in the 47 counties around the country.
This follows the realisation that most County Assembly Members are not well informed about constitutional and governance issues while up to 75 per cent of members of the National Assembly are new comers.
There are fears that members of the county assemblies, county service boards and even the county executives have not fully synchronised the functions and mandates of county governments, and do not understand institutions created by the Constitution at the county level.
The capacity building programme, also being facilitated by the Centre for Parliamentary Studies and Training (CPST) and the Transitional Authority (TA) is tailored for the counties but also targets first term members of the National Assembly.
CPST prepared a curriculum detailing the courses that participants would study.
They include Parliament and the Constitution, political parties and lobbying, parliamentary procedures, devolution and media issues.
The four targeted areas of training include the budget making process, oversight through assembly committees, the legislation process and the administration and management of Assemblies.
Eight former MPs who served in the 10th Parliament, former clerk of the National Assembly Japheth Masya and his deputy Owino Omollo are among the main trainers.
Former MPs who are also trainers include Peter Mwathi, Elius Mbau, Linah Kilimo, Prof Margaret Kamar, David Ngugi, Martin Ogindo, David Koech and Dr Julius Kones.
Former East African Legislative Assembly member Rose Waruhiu is also on the team of more than 60 people that include professionals from various fields.
Before being co-opted into the programme, the former MPs had launched their own initiative dubbed the Devolution Support Network to promote devolution education amongst members of county assemblies, county assembly service boards, and county executives among others.
“The government saw our determination and initiative and decided to co-opt us into the programme, which was originally initiated by the TA, but whose current main facilitator financially is SUNY through Usaid,” Mwathi who is a former Limuru MP told The Standard on Sunday.
Mwathi who served in the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) of the 10th Parliament, noted that the county officials have not fully synchronised functions and mandates of county governments, and institutions created by the Constitution.
The training team, he said, was using some of the practical experiences derived from tours of the PSC team during the tenure of the 10th Parliament to the US, Australia, South Africa, Germany, Brazil, Ireland, Sweden and Belgium to educate local leaders on issues surrounding devolution.
“There are also concerns on how counties can make responsive and people-oriented budgets and carry out effective outreach programmes for the public to appreciate the role of county governments,” he added.
The training is being conducted through workshops and seminars in the counties and short certificate courses that take three weeks.
A key area of the training is the budget making process which was necessitated by lack of knowledge and capacity at the counties, going by gaps detected in the first budgets prepared by county governments.
“We are educating them on the budget making process right from what informs budget proposals to public participation, approval and the right utilisation of resources,” Mwathi said.
On oversight, assembly committee members are being taught how to interrogate budgets, engage in Executive matters and vetting processes.
They are also being taught aboutpowers, privileges and immunities of various committees and the need to strengthen such committees as links between the Legislature and Executive. On the legislation process, there is absolute need for county governments to understand how to initiate legislation on issues controlled and regulated by the county.
Mwathi further pointed out that the County Assemblies Service Boards members have to understand the link between the Legislature and the Executive at the county level and the autonomy of each institution. “We are confident that with the input we are giving, a lot of positive transformation can be realised soon,” concluded the former MP.
CPST director Nyokabi Kamau has however warned the leaders against using the forums to gain political mileage saying the process should not be partisan.