Unfinished business: Poor attendance puts LREB governors on the spot
The Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) technocrats are racing against time to prove that the regional entity can be revived
But the bloc’s fifth summit held in Siaya County this week was poorly attended, sending the wrong signals and fears of a premature death.
The summit was attended by nine of 14 governors of the member counties but snubbed by local senators, speakers and MCAs, who had been formally invited.
The poor attendance stalled the agenda of the two-day conference at some stages, frustrating efforts to discuss key issues and challenges facing the bloc.
As a result, most of the agenda that had been lined up for discussion were shelved, with the governors resolving to meet again in three months to discuss emerging issues that they failed to address.
On the first day, LREB joint legislative meeting that was supposed to be co-chaired by Siaya Speaker George Okode and his Nyamira counterpart Moffat Teya failed to take place due to lack of quorum.
The session was meant to discuss the bloc’s legal framework, focusing on LREB Bill, 2019, which seeks to make the institution a legally binding entity.
So far, 10 counties have passed the Bill while four have not, hindering the process of institutionalising the bloc. The session was meant to mobilise the remaining county assemblies to pass the Bill.
At the registration desk, several tags meant for MCAs from member counties were lying uncollected, with registration reports indicating that the worst affected counties included Nandi,Trans Nzoia, Kericho, Bomet, Migori and Bungoma.
Only a small number of MCAs, especially those from Siaya County, gathered for the session. Efforts by Mr Okode to get answers from Nandi, Bungoma, Bomet and Kericho on why they had not passed the Bill proved futile as there was nobody to respond.
“We must put our house in order as assemblies the next time we are meeting as LREB because it is the only way we can drive our collective agenda,” said Okode.
On the second day of the summit, all the topics that had been lined up, focusing on the flagship projects of the bloc as well as revival of key agricultural sectors like cotton and sugar, were cancelled as senators who were supposed to moderate the sessions did not turn up.
The 14-member counties include Siaya, Homa Bay, Migori, Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia, Vihiga, Trans Nzoia, Kisii, Nyamira, Bomet, Nandi, Kisumu and Kericho.
The objective of the Bloc is to leverage the economies of scale and shared resources such as Lake Victoria in order to grow the economy of the region and improve the livelihood of the people in the member counties.
The governors who missed the event included Okoth Obado (Migori), Paul Chepkwony (Kericho), Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzioa) and Stephen Sang (Nandi).
Contacted by the Sunday Standard, Mr Obado’s communications office said the governor was committed to the cause of the bloc but could not attend the summit due to pressing commitments.
The bloc’s activities have also been slowed by the death of its Vice Chairperson, former Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso, late last year and the resignation of its founding CEO Abala Wanga. The late Laboso has since been replaced by Kisii Governor James Ongwae.
Although LREB Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya said the absent governors had sent their apologies, their absence confirmed fears that there was lack of commitment from some member counties.
Indeed, Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga said some counties had become uncooperative and were not remitting their contributions as others had failed to pass the pieces of legislation to operationalise the bloc.
“Another member governor was asking me why he should remit money for the formation of a regional bank,” Rasanga said sarcastically, hinting to the fact that the bloc was facing cash crunch.
“Financing LREB has not been easy. Some governors have not appreciated our coming together as a bloc.”