Bill seeks to control poverty eradication programmes

Devolution Cabinet Secretary Ann Waiguru joins traditional dancers at Kiganjo stadium in Gatundu during the launch of Uwezo Fund sensitisation programme for Kiambu County. [PHOTO: FILE/ STANDARD]

Devolution and Planning Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru faces tough choices between winding up the Poverty Eradication Commission (PEC) and scaling up sub-county committees on tackling poverty at the grassroots.

The fresh challenge is posed by imminent expiry of the National Poverty Eradication Plan 1999-2015 this month, in which government policies on equitable regional and social distribution of national resources were piloted.

With a void and fresh controversy looming over the channelling of funds to eradicate poverty in rural areas and urban informal settlements, Parliament has lined up the Inclusive Growth Coordination Authority Bill (2015), which if passed into law, will create a body to oversee micro-level economic programmes targeting vulnerable population.

According to the Bill, the authority will be an inter-agency focal point on social and economic programmes.

The body will “coordinate and harmonise poverty eradication programmes, approve and track progress in poverty reduction in short, medium and long term programmes.

This comes at a time the Jubilee government is grappling with funding social programmes for citizens on the lowest end of the economic spectrum as allegations of massive looting of public funds meant for vulnerable groups rock the Executive, the Legislature and to some extent the Judiciary.

It also coincides with pressure by governors on national government and the opposition to allocate more funds – Pesa Mashinani – to county governments to kick-start economic programmes for the poor.

Youth Fund, Women Fund, Uwezo Fund, CDF, and Table Banking were all convened by PEC whose Chief Executive Officer Leonard Obidha told The Standard on Saturday that the agency lacks the legal mandate and financial resources to oversee their implementation

“We set out to put in place mechanisms for the poor to access affordable credit. This was either through low or interest free loans, or establishment of a revolving fund that could be accessed without the requirement collateral. We mooted, Uwezo Fund, Women Fund and Youth Fund, among others to help the poor without collateral,” explains  Obidha.

The Bill sponsored by Sirisia MP John Waluke, was expected to be tabled in Parliament on Wednesday. Waluke said the Bill was motivated by the de-gazettement of PEC in November that left pro-poor economic programmes at the mercy of the Cabinet.

“The policy lacked strong legal backing and as a result, various groups and institutions picked the concepts and modified then to suit their interests,” Waluke said.

He explains: "Poverty is not a devolved concern but a national issue. In the current devolution process and given that poverty is still a big development challenge, there is need to have an institution that links the devolved governments with the national vision to ensure poverty reduction agendas are sustained at national level and main-streamed in the county government plans."