Governors, Senators renew rivalry

Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto who is the chairman of the Governors Council

By STEPHEN MAKABILA             

KENYA: Fresh battle lines have been drawn between Governors and Senators, just two weeks into the New Year.

Wednesday’s hard-hitting statement against Governors by Senate Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki and Senate Devolution Committee chairman Kipchumba Murkomen was just a tip of the iceberg.

For the better part of last year, the Senators and Governors engaged in supremacy battles, with the former being uncomfortable with the governors’ powers.

Political analysts say in normal circumstances, Governors and Senators need to work in harmony for the success of devolution — the Senate’s main role being to represent the counties and to protect the interests of the counties and their governments.

Additionally, the Senate makes laws concerning counties, determine the allocation of national revenue among counties and exercise oversight over national revenue allocated.

But as things stand now, the 68-member Senate, in an attempt to play its oversight role, has rattled governors who have a totally different view.

Governors in their latest onslaught against Senators accuse them of singing the Government’s tune instead of propagating issues affecting counties.

“We are likely to see more fighting between the two groups as each side jostles for space and it’s the public to suffer because of poor service delivery by devolved units,” points out Dr Martin Mulwale of Maseno University.

While reacting to an audit report by the office of the Controller of Budget which painted most counties as wasteful, Senators accused Governors of using all the money allocated to them by the Central Government on salaries and travelling instead of focusing on long-term projects.

Foreign trips

“The Governors have spent the money on salaries, foreign travelling and holding conferences. This has to stop and we will bring a law to reduce these expenses and help in developing the counties,” said Prof Kindiki. 

The Controller of Budget wants the counties to fully implement the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) as well as the Integrated Financial Management Information Systems (IFMIS) and also put in place elaborate procurement plans and continuously build capacity on financial management for their staff.

This, according to the controller Agnes Odhiambo, will ensure that good financial control mechanisms are put in place and efficient service delivery to the public is achieved.

But Governors have questioned why Senators rushed into leveling blanket attacks against them without conceptualising what the report was all about, and whether the findings were genuine or not.

Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto who is the chairman of the Governors Council, has argued the controller of budget had frozen development funds to counties after lawmakers failed to pass the Public Finance Management Bill and procurement rules.

“The money we received at the end of September was for recurrent budget. Where were we to get the money for development yet the controller of budget has not released it?” he asked in company of Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma and his Kisii counterpart James Ongwae.

According to Ruto, it would take counties up to end of February to fulfil what he called tedious requirements for release of development funds, saying governors should be judged on whether they had performed starting from June. He also attributed the delay in passing budgets to a strike by county representatives agitating for higher pay.

The Council of Governors’ chairman also hit out at senators, accusing them of singing the government’s tune instead of propagating issues affecting counties. Coincidentally, when Rutto announced governors have not abandoned their push for a referendum to boost county revenue allocations, Murkomen, the Elgeyo-Marakwret County Senator and his Nandi county counterpart Stephen Sang, revealed a Bill was  on the way to control expenditure within counties.

On the referendum, Ruto noted they still believe there is need to give counties at least 45 per cent of total national revenue and disclosed that there were priorities that came up, prompting governors to go slow on the referendum campaigns.

“We have not stopped our fight for increased revenue to counties. We still believe there are fundamental flaws in the Constitution that need to be amended,” Ruto said, adding that the Council of Governors only reached an agreement to go slow on the issue to allow President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto address matters of national importance.

In their move to curtail expenditure at the counties, Murkomen and Sang have indicated the Bill will set the percentage of money, which will be used by counties on recurrent expenditure and development so as to stop use of large amounts of taxpayers money on irrelevant needs. The two senators have accused a section of Governors of corrupt deals saying some counties have purchased machinery, which governors and other county government officials use to allegedly enrich themselves.

Under check

The Murkomen-Sang Bill is however not the first attempt to put government under check. Last year, Kakamega Senator Bonny Khalwale sponsored a Bill that seeks to define who is qualified to fly the flag and set  Government precedence in terms of protocol and titles.

After the March 4 General election, governors were on a warpath with the Government over His Excellency title and the flying of the National flag.

Their Naivasha induction meeting saw Attorney General Githu Muigai and the Commission for Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) give in to the demands by the governors, a move that did not go down well with Senators and MPs.

The National flag, Emblems and Titles Bill is in its First reading in the National Assembly after being discussed in the Senate.