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Audit report on Constitution lacks merit, conceals challenges we face

By Billow Kerrow | October 16th 2016

We whine every too often on just about everything. It doesn’t prick our conscience when state mandarins obfuscate reality, perhaps finding citizenry too gullible. Many a times, I have no qualms about our usual noises; we have got used to it. After all, we shelve many of our controvertible arguments that end up invariably as a finding by some task force. But this week’s report on purported socio-economic audit of the Constitution was too much to take.

Their conclusion that Parliament and county assemblies were bloated, bicameral system is expensive, Kenyans are over-represented, our wage bill is high, etc. is a pedestrian argument, totally lacking in merit, and obviously a collection of the tired, populist views that camouflage the real challenges we face. It makes no attempt to examine factors besides monetary, that underpin the creation of these institutions, nor do they attempt to explain the implications of the casual recommendations. Give us a break!

It took this nation nearly two decades to craft a new Constitution agreeable to all Kenyans. We spent years collecting views from across the nation, and from every diverse group. It was not simply put together by some experts, to be reviewed barely five years into its operationalisation. Some of the institutions and systems the report recommends for review have hardly been fully implemented. Worse still, statutes to give effect to aspects of the Constitution to ensure its seamless operation are yet to be enacted. The combined budgetary allocations for Parliament and County Assemblies are less than 5 per cent of our total public expenditure. If we were to scrap them both, we would save less than Sh60 billion. Then what? No oversight institutions at county and national levels? How does that impact on a total expenditure of Sh1.2 trillion? Frankly, I think it’s being pennywise, and pound-foolish!

Obviously the writers overlooked the huge financial wastage and plunder that the same Auditor General writes about each year in government ministries and county governments. Indeed, in the past few years, national government ministries alone could not account for hundreds of billions of shillings voted by the National Assembly that ordered for this audit. At county level, we all tend to focus on the 9 per cent allocated to county assemblies, ignoring the massive misappropriation and wastage in the remaining 90 per cent retained by the county executive. Moreover, we all know the massive corruption in this country that siphons out at least Sh300 billion annually through inflated procurements, according to government estimates.

I have argued in this column many times that our wage bill figures are politically correct, not factually. We can’t grumble always that adjusting MPs salaries and allowances will reduce it. This is a dumb argument. More significantly, the report ignores the failure by the executives at both levels to rationalise public service, in terms of creating new offices and corporations, and recruitments. Last year alone, government recruited nearly 1,000 administrators when we ought to have restructured provincial administration to fit the devolved structure. But the duplication gets worse at functional level, leading to huge overlay. National government has no intention to rationalise, nor cut wastage or eliminate duplication that counties have often complained about. The result is hundreds of billions of shillings wasted. Did they look at our external public debt, the terms of these loans and purpose for which they were taken? There is no greater financial burden than this today!

It is instructive to note that this audit was sought by the Budget Committee of the National Assembly that is so cosy with the Treasury that oversight has long lost its meaning. Please read the Kreigler Commission report to know why we might even need more representatives come 2019. Read CKRC reports on why we have devolution to appreciate County Assemblies and bicameral Parliament.

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