County officials sweating in their seats over impeachment

A section of Members of Nakuru County assembly celebrate after Impeaching the former Roads CEC Lucy Kariuki on July 16.[Kipsang Joseph, Standard]
County executives are living at the mercy of MCAs who more often than not use threats of impeachment to have their way. 

While impeachment is a tool ward representative can use to advance public interest, the validity of such motions raises more questions than answers.

Analysts warn that this may hurt counties than secure public interest.

Constitutional lawyer Mutakha Kangu says it was easy to understand the excitement of ward representatives in the first years of devolution in their quest to exercise oversight.

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“One would have to forgive the MCAs tendency to threaten or impeach county executives or even governors for the flimsiest reasons. It was only natural that, having discovered the immense powers at their disposal, they would be excited to try them out,” Kangu says. He worries that years later, MCAs are still eager to impeach leaders.

“And this can only mean they have understood the extent of their powers and are not afraid to use them to advance selfish interests,” he says.

However, most of the resolutions adopted by the MCAs have failed to make any impact in the management of counties, as they have either been overturned by the courts or ignored by governors.

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Two weeks ago, Laikipia County Finance and Economic Planning executive Murungi Ndai was shown the door by ward reps who accused him of violating the Constitution.

Ndai’s fate was sealed after the assembly voted unanimously to remove him from  office for failure to conduct public participation during the making of the 2018/2019 budget. All the 21 MCAs present voted for his ouster. Only three were absent.

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However, the High Court in Nyeri overturned the impeachment awaiting the hearing of the matter.

In April, the Baringo County Assembly passed a motion to impeach Finance executive Jane Jepkorir while their counterparts in Nakuru tabled an ouster motion against Roads executive Lucy Kariuki.

Baringo Governor Stanley Kiptis came to the rescue of Ms Jepkorir and moved her to the Department of Trade. But Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui outwitted the MCAs after he did a reshuffle of his cabinet that saw Kariuki moved to Youth, Gender, Culture and Social Services.

The defiant MCAs went ahead with the planned motion and voted 49 against 21 to send Kariuki home on July 16. Speaker Joel Kairu said the assembly would forward to him the resolution of the house for ratification. “We did our part as per the standing orders and the Constitution. It is up to the Executive to ratify the members’ decisions,” he said.

County executives, who spoke to Sunday Standard, believe that the frequency of the impeachment attempts is an indication MCAs have completely missed the point.

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“Instead of the ward reps looking at the impeachment as a weapon of last resort, they have chosen to wield it like a rogue’s gun, threatening to use it at the slightest provocation,” said a Baringo County executive.

An officials from Nakuru County who sought anonymity for fear of repraisals, claimed some MCAs have been using impeachment to blackmail governors in to giving into their demands.

“There have been cases where impeachment threats have fizzled out after MCAs have been treated to out-of-town junkets or have some favours done,” said the executive.

MCAs have also been accused of using impeachment to advance political interests of third parties.

Masese Kemuche, a civil rights activities and an official of the Center for Development and Good Governance says threats to impeach governors and their executives are likely to increase ahead of the 2022 elections. 

“It is good for MCAs to exercise powers responsibly. We want them to be less inclined to impeach. But if the situation obtains, there is need to review the law to make it harder for MCAs to throw out governors and county executives,” Mr Masese says. He wants the Senate to check the excesses of MCAs.

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DevolutionMutakha KanguImpeachmentMCAs