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Senators to blame for governors' failures

By Alexander Chagema | April 28th 2016

There is no love lost between our senators and governors; they never hit it off from the word go.

In part, this is attributable to their roles not being clearly defined.

Senators must have underestimated the power governors would ultimately wield and overestimated their own role in a devolved governance system.

With time, governors became territorial and locked out senators from the centre of power within the counties. Governors caused senators to be barred from chairing county development boards in 2015.

Senators soon realised they could not penetrate the ‘injunctions’ barrier governors had erected around themselves. Conversely, the National Assembly has not spared a chance to isolate senators from fully participating in the shared legislative processes.

Senators and senior Government officials boycotted last weeks governors’ conference in Meru County. Perhaps to rub salt into the injury, President Uhuru Kenyatta met leaders from the wider Meru region ostensibly to discuss the troubled miraa business.

But it is easy to view the meeting as a slap in the face for Meru Governor Peter Munya, who has been a thorn in the flesh of the Jubilee Alliance Party.

The resistance movement was spearheaded by Meru Governor Peter Munya and Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto to the chagrin of Jubilee principals.

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While criticism is healthy and part of the democratic process, it must be constructive and anchored on facts. When some leaders choose to spew subjective criticism for the price of a moment's fame, it betrays how pedestrian their reasoning gets at times.

On the day the governors’ conference was winding up in Meru, Nandi Senator Stephen Sang and his nominated colleague Beatrice Elachi appeared on television castigating the county bosses for the event.

Senator Sang was particularly caustic, questioning why governors had wasted Sh130 million to organise the conference. Senator Elachi wondered why governors were elected instead of being nominated in the first place.

That was imprudent, and if it really pains senator Elachi that governors are elected, she should marshal her colleagues to have a stab at changing the Constitution; that’s the source of her anguish.

If the national government and senators sulk and shun associating with governors, whom they seem to blame for virtually everything that doesn’t work for either of them, how are they supposed to mend fences or build bridges for the good of Kenyans?

If truly governors have failed, it follows that senators have failed too. Upstaged by Members of Parliament, they have failed in their legislative and oversight roles and the righteous indignation they affect in public is deceptive.

Over time, senators have gone on retreats at Naivasha and the Coast at taxpayers expense with nothing positive to show for it. Cabinet Secretaries, parastatal chiefs and heads of government institutions routinely use helicopters that cost anywhere between Sh100,000 and Sh150,000 per hour.

A few months back, the Ministry for Devolution was reported to have spent Sh1.7 million purchasing a single television set and Sh450,000 on 18 condom dispensers.

Earlier this month, the Controller of Budget released a report that revealed Members of Parliament spent Sh1 billion on domestic travel inside six months alone.

The office of the president spent Sh627 million on receptions, garden parties, beverages and gifts.

Of course you’d be naive to think such gifts were given to ordinary riffraff like me and you.

As a country with a struggling economy, we sincerely need to scale down on such expenditure.

In Tanzania, for instance, instead of spending millions of shillings preparing for the Independence Day holiday, President John Magufuli ordered a clean-up of the country’s capital city on the material day.

He cancelled this years Union Day holiday celebrations and directed the money to be spent expanding the Mwanza airport road to ease congestion. Such decisive action is admirable.

The above expenditures did not raise a quip from our indefatigable senators but they suddenly have a bee in the bonnet because governors spent Sh130 million to organise an all inclusive conference to compare notes and see where they may have fallen Short.

Such duplicity by senators does little to rally people around their leaders.

Governors cannot be effective when senators, members of county assemblies and the public are set against them; they cannot fully deliver when the national government refuses to play ball.

I have argued before that the senate is superfluous. Senators are a burden we can safely do without.

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