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National Executive snubs governors’ forum as Uhuru terms it ‘waste of public resources’

Kenya Private Sector Alliance Chairman Vimal Shah (right), Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto (second right) together with a section of delegates follow proceedings Wednesday. [Photo: Collins Kweyu/Standard]

By Roselyne Obala and Tobias Chanji

Kwale, Kenya: The much-talked-about and controversial devolution conference got underway in Kwale County as questions were raised about the absence of senators and Cabinet secretaries.

President Uhuru Kenyatta had criticised the conference in an interview aired by a local television station while aides to Deputy President William Ruto said the forum is organised by governors and the DP had nothing to do with it.

Wednesday, governors wondered why the national government had problems with the way counties run their affairs by purporting to supervise them.

The Standard established that despite being part of the programme, the deputy President, the senators, Cabinet secretaries and County Assembly Forum (CAF) members all opted to keep off the conference.

Only Senate Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki was present. Senate Speaker Ekwe Ethuro is expected today as the first annual devolution conference, dubbed One Year into Devolution-Celebrating the Milestones, Confronting the challenges, enters day two.

Council of Governors (COG) Chairman Isaac Ruto chose to be diplomatic about the absence of the national executive.

“We understand that the President is out of the country on official trip, the DP might not attend as he has serious work lined up in the absence of the President,” said Mr Ruto, also the Bomet governor.

Ruto added: “The CSs are busy explaining to Kenyans their ministries achievement at the Cabinet media briefings and therefore, it is not a must they attend the function. We can always engage them in other inter-governmental avenues.”

Ruto however, affirmed that the national government was involved in every stage of the preparation and should have therefore been present.

The Standard also learnt that the CAF members who visited State House over the weekend had decided to snub the conference, even as their colleagues trooped to the venue Wednesday.

Governors and MCAs also weighed in on the President’s sentiments that the meeting is a waste of public resources.

Many meetings

They were particularly irked by the national executives’ arguments that the County Chief Executives (CEOs) are holding too many meetings at the expense of initiating development projects.

“We are not using any public funds. This meeting has been funded by our partners and sponsors,” COG Chairman Ruto sought to set the record straight. He instead revealed that the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa) and other sponsors met the cost of the event.

President Kenyatta publicly raised concern that the meeting is a waste of public resources especially at a time when the country is grappling with a ballooning wage bill.

Uhuru made reference to the MCAs meeting in Mombasa few days, which was also attended by Governor Ruto as having addressed matters affecting devolution and questioned why the governors didn’t clinch the opportunity to also discuss their county governments’ issues.

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