Old order refuses to give in to elected Governors

BY OKECH KENDO

Here is the peak point of Executive doublespeak and a struggle between agents of status quo and forces of change. But the clash between Governors and County Commissioners is merely an aspect of a bigger battle between the old and the new order.

Section 1 (1) of the Constitution of Kenya states “All sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya and shall be exercised only in accordance with this Constitution”.

The concern in June, last year, following the Justice Ngugi Mumbi High Court ruling, was that the President had no constitutional powers to restructure the Provincial Administration without consulting the people. Now agents of the people are clashing with presidential appointees.

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On the one side leaders are complaining about the rising and already huge public service wage bill. They even contemplate a freeze of salary increments for public servants. This could well lead to a caveat on new public sector employment. The losers would be the youth who cannot find room in the public service because it is top heavy. It is already overloaded with superfluous positions that are not recognised in the new order.

On another level, these leaders want to retain the Provincial Administration hierarchy that duplicates functions, thus raising the public consumption account.

The beneficiary of these contradictions is the status quo that denies the inevitability of change.

The protector of these forces of reaction is, as usual, the Presidency.

Even with elected governors taking up positions, provincial commissioners are still sitting easy above them, with no specific functions under the new Constitution. Regional commissioners are sitting parallel to them, again without specified functions under the new Constitution.

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Below the 47 Governors are also about 300 DCs, again without specified functions. Below the DCs are also double-layer DOs – ranked, as DO-Is and DO IIs – again with duplicate functions.

There is another layer of administrators like chiefs and sub chiefs, with villager elders down to a clutter of homesteads. This is the way they were configured under the colonial administration about 50 years ago, to contain Africans on behalf of the colonial governor sitting in Nairobi. This thinking has not changed. Not even with the diminishing account of the imperial Presidency sitting in Nairobi.

The latter-day ‘governor’ still thinks the Executive cannot trust anybody else with national security, except its appointees, layered down to the kijiji. It was because of this that President Kibaki singly appointed county commissioners to undercut elected governors.

The High Court declared these appointments illegal and unconstitutional, but the 47 county commissioners, in the 47 counties, still hold superfluous offices, with the protection of the Presidency.

 The Attorney General Githu Muigai, who is the official legal advisor to the Government and the President, agreed with the High Court ruling, and refused to appeal. The burden of appeal was then taken over by then acting Internal Security Minister Yusuf Haji and then acting PS Mutea Iringo. But not much has been heard about the appeal since June, last year, when the High Court so ordered.

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These many ranks of the Executive contradict the Constitution that recognises only two layers of Government – the national Government and county governments.

Co-ordinate security

In 2010 Kenyans endorsed a new Constitution that devolves governance to counties, with governor as CEO. There is also a deputy governor in the mix, as official leaders of the county executive – a devolved Cabinet.

 The Presidency retains a bloated executive that shall further drain the Treasury, against legal advice, and a High Court order.

President Kibaki is at the core of this clash, with the people of Kenya on the one side, and the Office of the President on the other.

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The President cannot trust the people’s choices with security issues, yet he expects the electorate to trust his appointees to manage the security machinery.

The Presidency represents the status quo that wants to fortify the oldwhose symbols are the Provincial Administration rankers – PCs, DCs, DOs, Chiefs and their Assistants, and villagers elders.

While there may be a rationale in retaining DCs, chiefs, assistant chiefs, and village elders in some form to co-ordinate security issues, PCs, and regional commissioners remain ‘strangers’ until their functions are structured.

 Even as the country waits for the restructuring of the Provincial Administration within five years of the new Constitution, the public shall carry the extra cost of this duplicate layer of Government.  Here then, is the real struggle between the status quo and forces of change. The struggle is likely to intensify now that governors have been sworn-in. They were yesterday.

Already Kisumu County governor and the county commissioner are in the ring, with one side answerable to the people, and another to the President. Although the power of the people is supreme, the presidency refuses to concede. Worse, it is the people to pay for this baggage whose real value in the context of devolution remains unknown.

Perhaps some citizen with a high sense of civic responsibility should return to court to argue a case that the President should pay country commissioners from his personal account. Text Box: B If M

The writer is The Standard’s Managing Editor Quality and Production.

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Governors County Commissioners oath