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Whatever happened to the Council of Governors?

By Mohamed Guleid | Published Thu, November 9th 2017 at 00:00, Updated November 8th 2017 at 23:10 GMT +3

It is only on Tuesday that I suddenly realised that county governors are still with us. Since the last General Election we have heard almost nothing from them. Compare this to post-2013 election when the first crop of governors were elected.

Then, the Council of Governors was in the news almost daily for various reasons. It was common occurrence to see governors taking collective position on various issues.

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Of course, these were mainly issues to do with transfer of functions from the national government to the devolved units. However, there are still contentious issues which have not been fully addressed.

Unfinished business

They include the transfer of assets and funds of state corporations whose functions have been transferred in line with the Constitution that listed at list 14 functions that ought to be delegated to the county governments.

So far, since the elections in August there has been no single meeting by the CoG. This is very strange because the Council of Governors is the highest organ in the devolved structure where policy is discussed and through various sectoral committees issues of importance are discussed. My expectation was at least the governors would have met to discuss how to engage donors and other development partners.

The centre is too strong

Instead, what we saw is more influence from the national government. The assumption of office processes including the swearing in process became a national government event. Planning was done from a centralised place with the the visible hand of the National Government.

The Constitution created the institutions of county governments. The people decided that the exclusion of people on the periphery from state resources can be best redressed by sharing of power and resources at the grassroots.

The governors therefore excise executive power on behalf of the people. Most governors have gone through a very expensive campaign season. They went out of their way to tell the people what they could do once in office. Now that will be undermined by delayed or inadequate funds from the Treasury.

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By design therefore, the governors are expected to fight for more resources and improve the lives of their people. Their silence is therefore worrying. Could it be that they are not ready to take on the national government to advocate for more resources to the devolved governments? The fact that counties have not received development funds from the Treasury to date since the last financial year is telling.

Large wage bill

The percentage of funds transferred to county governments by the National Treasury through the shared revenue is about 15 per cent of the national budget. And considering the huge costs of undertaking development projects in the counties, 15 per cent is quite minimal compared to the plans most county governments have. Of course, most counties have a huge deficit due to the large wage bill and recurrent costs.

From the budgetary allocations what goes into tangible development is only less than 30 per cent at best for most counties. This is way below, the expected funds required for developing infrastructure, providing clean potable water and providing a decent public health services is minimal.

The governors have a responsibility to organise for more funds to fulfil their manifestos and bring development to their people. This needs a collective voice from the CoG. It doesn’t have to be confrontational. No. there is a possibility of negotiating with the National Government for more funds.

Loud silence

This silence from the CoG is made worse by an almost conspiratorial silence from the Commission of Revenue Allocations which hitherto under the chairmanship of Micah Cheserem was more audible and pleaded for more resources to the counties.

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At this rate, county governments are likely to become a big disappointment to the very people that queued for long hours to vote for adequate representation and good services from those they elected.

Safeguarding devolution and sourcing of more resources requires a more concerted effort from the CoG.

Trying hard to please the national government by appearing non-combative will only embolden those in the national government who had no regard for the counties in the in the first place.

Mr Guleid is former deputy governor, Isiolo County


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