Besieged Sonko now surrenders Nairobi to national government

NAIROBI |

President Uhuru Kenyatta witnesses the signing of an agreement that hands over the functions of the Nairobi County Government to the national government pursuant to Article 187 of the Constitution.

The decision by Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko to surrender key county functions to the national government was considered the least disruptive of the options available to address the leadership crisis at City Hall.

Witnessed by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka, Mr Sonko and Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa yesterday signed an agreement at State House, handing over the crucial functions of health, transport, public works and planning to the national government. 

It means the county will surrender substantial revenues generated by these key dockets as well as forego billions of shillings allocated from the county’s share of national revenue as corresponding resources must be taken back to the national government- which essentially leaves the governor with a shell.

Yesterday, Council of Governors Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya explained the deal had effectively rendered Sonko a “governor without portfolio.”

With the governor facing graft charges, barred by the courts from accessing his office and without a substantive deputy, high-level talks convened to resolve the leadership crisis ruled out the drastic action of suspending the county.

This was considered not viable because of the laborious procedure --- investigation by an independent commission of inquiry, approval by the President and Senate authorisation- as well as cost implications as it would lead to an election.

There were no funds to conduct the election and also the number of people who were going to lose their jobs including Members of County Assembly due to that decision worked against it.

Impeachment option

The option of impeachment was also going to lead to an election as, without a deputy to take over for the remainder of the term, as was the case with Kiambu County where James Nyoro assumed leadership after removal of Ferdinand Waititu, County Assembly Speaker Beatrice Elachi was to act as a governor for 60 days before a fresh election.

Sonko, who has to defend himself against an impeachment motion already filed against him at the assembly, is said to have agreed to voluntarily surrender the major devolved functions that would ensure smooth, “Nairobi residents receive services efficiently.”

Sources told The Standard County Executive Committee members and heads of departments will be retained, but deployed to other functions.

However, Heads of Departments (HoDs) affected by the deal will now report directly to the national government.

Yesterday, Mr Oparanya said the decision by Sonko will water down gains made by devolution, adding that this now leaves him as a “governor without portfolio.”

He explained that by voluntarily surrendering major functions that generate high revenue for the county, Sonko will have minimal areas to control.

“It has not taken us by surprise because there have been many problems in Nairobi and the decision by the court to bar charged governors from accessing office contributed to this,” he added.

Oparanya said CoG is waiting to look at the agreement signed between the governor and the national government, adding that the deal reached at State House is provided for in law.

“We do not know if he surrendered the functions 100 per cent or partially,” he added.

Article 187 of the Constitution provides that a function or power of government at one level may be transferred to higher level of government.

Sonko signed away the city’s devolved functions to the national government, effectively losing his grip on his chaotic reign at City Hall.

The county government will now be run by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government in unprecedented development since the establishment of the 47 counties.

The decision to transfer the functions places Sonko as the first governor to hand over his functions in a clear indictment on his ability to deliver services to the Nairobi residents.

State House last evening said the national government will take over county health services, county transport services, county public works, utilities and ancillary services as well as county government planning and development.

“In a land mark agreement signed at State House today, Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko and Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa in concurrence with President Uhuru Kenyatta, signed an agreement, handing over functions of the Nairobi County Government to the National Government, pursuant to Article 187 of the Constitution,” said State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena in a statement.

The signing of the agreement was also witnessed by Mr Lusaka and Attorney General Paul Kihara.

The development implies that the National Treasury will no longer disburse billions of shillings to the county government since the functions will now be performed at the national level.

Nairobi has been receiving the lion’s share of the shareable revenue. In the current financial year of 2019/20, City Hall received Sh16.9 billion out of Sh335 billion shareable revenue for the 47 units.

The county government was also set to receive in the next financial year of 2020/21 Sh15.95 billion of the total shareable revenue of Sh316.5 billion.

City’s leadership crisis

It means Treasury will now hold onto significant of the allocations for the current financial year as well as the Sh15.95 billion meant for the next financial year as the national government takes over the devolved functions.

Nairobi was plunged into confusion and leadership crisis following the arrest and subsequent prosecution of Sonko over corruption-related charges.

Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti had ordered Sonko, who is facing a Sh380-million graft case, to stay away from the office, effectively triggering a leadership crisis at City Hall, given that Sonko does not have a deputy to act as governor for the time he will be on trial.

The county assembly has also been marred with wrangles over the leadership crisis amid plots by some MCAs to impeach Sonko.

Nairobi is the country’s capital city and hub of economy, explaining the national government’s interest to take over and ensure service delivery is not grounded.

Yesterday, State House described the decision as a breakthrough that will ensure Nairobi residents receive services efficiently.

“The move comes as a breakthrough in the running of county services that had ground to a halt,” stated the statement.

The decision, however, beats the purpose of devolution that was designed to bring down service delivery from the national government to the counties.

According to Article 187 of the constitution, stipulates that a function or power of government at one level may be transferred to a government at the other level by agreement between the governments.

Such an agreement may be reached if the function or power would be performed more effectively by the receiving government.

“If a function or power is transferred from a government at one level to a government at the other level—(a) arrangements shall be put in place to ensure that the resources necessary for the performance of the function or exercise of the power are transferred,” stipulates the Constitution.

It adds, “The constitutional responsibility for the performance of the function or exercise of the power shall remain with the government to which it is assigned by the Fourth Schedule.”

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