It is a month since the handshake duo, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga got the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report. Kenyans are rightly discussing contents of the report and I too, have read it.
The 180-page document has proposals affecting 16 out of 18 Chapters of the 2010 Constitution. Now, it is possible that few citizens will attempt to read the report and form their own opinion and influence a section of their community. The steering committee has given their methodology on how they went about their work before coming up with their report. These included review of their own BBI report, having national stakeholder validation meeting, regional delegate and public meetings, written submission, emails, expert engagement and desktop review on international good practice.
The steering committee has also provided a summary of the outcomes which they have validated in the nine thematic areas as per their mandate including: National ethos, Ethics, antagonism and completion, Inclusivity, the marginalised group, Divisive elections, Shared prosperity, Corruption, Devolution, Safety and security.
The team has then proposed constitutional, administrative and policy and legislative changes, relevant in arriving at the new changes within their mandate. Now, allow me to explain why I support the report.
The proposal to enlarge the executive addresses the issues of ethos, competition and inclusivity. Sharing executive power and legislative power will validate the issues of ownership. Holders of these offices of President, Deputy, Prime Minister and two deputies, cabinet minister and leader of opposition will be spread into the larger regions in Kenya and will help in bringing about peace.
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Speakers of both houses will be spread in the country and regions and will definitely help reduce tension which has been experienced in the past due to the winner-takes-it all system. This proposal also addresses the effects of divisive elections after every five years.
The recommendation that all appointments by the executive are subject to approval by National Assembly and recommendation by the Public Service Commission are good. What is required is the sincerity of those charged with approving and recommendation to ensure that merit counts.
The youth, women and PWD will now compete in tenders both at national and county governments, with 30 per cent reserved for them. The proposal to increase the equalisation share between national county governments to 35 per cent is encouraging. The team has also proposed an amendment in legislation to ensure the Controller of Budget will have power to authorise withdrawal by counties only after confirming the good use of previous withdrawals.
Further, an amendment in the Finance and Management Act to the effect that the Controller of Budget can authorise up to 50 per cent of the budget allocation to county government if there is delay in passing of the Revenue Allocation Bill in Parliament will solve constant delays arising out of supremacy wars between the two houses of parliament since 2013.
The proposal to have a person vying for the governorship to consider having a deputy from the opposite gender is good. There has been fear that the recommendation here is mandatory. No. The candidate is to consider.
The Constitution confers sovereign power to the people. The report proposes that the Public Participation Bill be passed and given a framework for genuine public participation by citizens in all matters affecting their affairs.
The report proposes that legislative amendments be complete within one year while those that affect the executive take effect from next general election. This is reasonable.
But is the report perfect? My response is no and I list three areas where I have issues with the report.
The first is the proposal to have 5 per cent ward development fund. I know there is a mischief it is intended to achieve. We will have some more funds in the hands of elected representatives which could be channeled through the county government and provided public participation is effective, the intended purpose can be achieved and reduce competition among leaders on projects at ward level. We can revisit the same after 10 years. Second, the judicial ombudsman should be an appointee of the Judicial Service Commission.
Third, the mediation committee report should be discussed and a report be taken to the President in 21 days not 14 days. This will ensure positive results.
Now, it is important for each Kenyan to read the document in readiness for the referendum and not to leave the burden to our politicians. Finally, it will take time for us to have a perfect constitution but studies show that successful devolution is realised in the third elections. Ours is 2022 and we seem to be on track.
-The writer is a PhD candidate – UODAR SOL [email protected]