‘Dictator governors’ sabotaging devolution, claim MCAs and senators

Senate Speaker Ekwe Ethuro said the oversight role of Senators and county assemblies has been hindered by inadequate resources.

Senators and county assembly speakers have said devolution is under threat from "imperial governors" and called for financial independence to enable them to carry out their oversight role.

The 47 speakers asked the Senate to deliver them "from the bondage of governors", saying county assemblies were currently operating at the mercy of county bosses who finance all their operations.

They called for financial autonomy and capacity building of the county assembly committees to enable them to oversee county government expenditure.

The senators and speakers are in Mombasa for a two-day workshop to evaluate the achievements and challenges of devolution. The workshop comes days before the national devolution conference, scheduled to start in Kisumu next week.

"Unless the assembly is in good books with the governor it can't operate because that is where they get the finances from," said Murang'a County Assembly Speaker Nduati Kariuki.

He said currently, the county assemblies are forced to "kneel down and beg the governors for money" and that they could not question the executive expenditure.

Senate Speaker Ekwe Ethuro said the oversight role of the two institutions had been hindered by inadequate resources. He warned of the danger of devolution not leading to development because there were no strong mechanisms to check the governors.

"Many functions have been devolved and the challenges have been with issues of oversight. We did not devolve corruption," said Mr Ethuro.

Laikipia County Assembly Speaker Patrick Mariru said county assemblies lacked the capacity to oversee county spending and called for close collaboration between the Senate and members of county assemblies.

"We ask that the Public Accounts Committee of the Senate should work with their counterparts in counties because they lack the capacity," said Mr Mariru.

Some counties are facing challenges associated with imperial leadership that is choking assembly watchdog functions, said Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi.

"What we are seeing is the rise of imperial governors just like in 1992, when MPs were at the mercy of the presidency because they were poorly paid and had not been empowered," said Mr Murungi.

Track expenditure

He said senators needed a secretariat that could track county expenditure, adding that currently, many senators had no idea what was happening in their counties.

Senate Deputy Speaker Kembi Gitura said the biggest threat to devolution was corruption.

Abdi Nuhu, the County Speakers Forum chairman, said the meeting would come up with a plan to help the two units work together to make sure devolution benefited Kenyans.

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