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Can MPs, MCAs be everything to everyone?

By Karanja Kabage | July 13th 2015

In 1976, I watched the then Governor Jimmy Carter and President Gerald Ford of US debate domestic policy issues and I have never forgotten the words of the late President Ford.

He said in reply to a question by the moderator of the debate that “A president cannot be everything to everybody but has to be the same thing to everybody!”

That was not only profound but it clearly manifested itself when, in November 1980, the then Governor Ronald Reagan, resoundingly defeated President Jimmy Carter with the largest Electoral College defeat of a sitting President.

When Mr Carter became President, he made efforts to be everything to everybody and had to contend with the ignominy of a one-term president. He however remade himself after he left office. What then is the lesson to Kenyans when we look at the current goings-on in the clamour by our political class, especially legislators, to directly manage public funds.

The Constitution, in Articles 202, 203 and 204 on Equitable sharing of National Revenue, Equitable Share and other Financial Laws and Equalisation Funds respectively, provides for the national and county governments in administering public service.

In addition, the drafters of our Constitution intended that matters to do with expenditure and development be exercised by both the national and county governments in accordance with the distribution of functions between the two levels of government.

What is then the issue? There has been unprecedented demand for allocation of resources to the Constituency Development Fund, where the court has already pronounced itself on the illegality of the fund, 47 Women Representatives Members of National Assembly (WRMNA) Fund in excess of the Sh2 billion, and a Sh2.5 billion fund for MCAs while the debate on whether the senators will be allocated over Sh2 billion in development funds is still raging.

What is informing this growing disregard for the doctrine of separation of powers? Do we really understand or even appreciate that there is a big difference between the Executive branches of governments, represented by the national and county governments on one hand and Parliament and County Assemblies as the Legislative and oversight bodies?

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This was the essence of the 2010 Constitution, when Kenyans determined the responsibilities and functions of the two distinct branches of Government, with the Judiciary playing the role of an independent arbiter in case of either interpretation of the Constitution or in resolving disputes.

More importantly, the Constitution mandates the Auditor General to audit expenditure of public resources in an accountable and transparent manner. This is crucial because two key Committees of Parliament; Public Accounts and Public Investment Committees, and their reports are informed by the findings of the Auditor General.

This is against the background of the Auditor General’s role in highlighting any acts of either omission or commission in the expenditure of public resources that amount to misuse or mismanagement.

The current scenario where legislative bodies are being allocated funds is contrary to the intention and spirit of the Constitution. Kenyans must voice their objection to these violations whose eventual implications are likely to be very detrimental to the accountability principle. Under the circumstances, there is no way MPs, WRMNAs, MCAs and even senators will offer oversight against themselves when findings of the Auditor General indict them.

The Kenyan taxpayer will therefore be left without a watchdog over their money. As the Baganda proverb states: “Monkeys must not be allowed to determine who lives in the forest. Why, they are interested parties with territorial ambitions.” Equally MPs, WRMNA, MCA and senators are interested parties with serious conflicts of interest.

Our legislators therefore cannot be expected to hold themselves accountable for the misuse and abuse of public funds they are directly involved in managing and or supervising expenditure by people they have either appointed or helped get elected to the development committees.

We are opening the floodgates of unstopped and insatiable corruption, which ultimately will consume the country. We cannot afford this level of compromise and contradiction in the management of the nation’s affairs. Only the President and governors have the constitutional mandate to spend public resources for public good. Your duty is to legislate and overnight these governments.

The minimum expectation from Kenyans is for legislators to be proactive in lobbying the national and county leaders for resource allocation on specific projects that are mainstreamed in the approved budgetary provision. This is a global phenomenon and Kenya is no exception.

Kenyans must insist that leaders go back to the basic legislative roles and faithfully adhere to them, otherwise we risk disruption of orderliness in governance due to lack of accountability and transparency in the affairs of public expenditure.

Meantime, I urge greater participation and enlightenment of the citizens in applying the opportunities like the enforcement of Bill of Rights and the Constitution in guaranteeing the constitutional probity and order.

If we fail to be vigilant, parliamentarians and MCAs will play the Russian roulette with Kenyan lives, which is potentially a dangerous undertaking that is likely to saddle both the present and future generations with financial burdens and collectively affect our common destiny.

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