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Why we must take MCAs ward kitty demand seriously

 Nakuru County assembly's chamber, August 6, 2022. [Harun Wathari, Standard]

Through the 11 years of devolution, a glaring supremacy battle has dominated nearly all the 47 counties between governors and Members of County Assemblies (MCAs).

This war has wielded three distinct characteristics - threats of impeachment of governors by the MCAs, retaliatory letters to the president seeking dissolution of affected county governments and in extreme ugly scenarios, fistfights within and outside the county assembly chambers among rival factions.

In all these scenarios, a common point of conflict has been the contentious MCAs' demands for Ward Development Kitties. Most Assemblies have been demanding allocations to this kitty from the county exchequers, with the area MCA as patron of the fund in their ward. The Controller of Budget has previously termed the kitty illegal over likely duplicity of projects under the kitty with those undertaken by key line dockets through specific County Executives.

Ironically, in most impeachment proceedings that I remember from the current and former Senate, this fund has been a glaring grievance cited by MCAs against the Governors. This issue came up in the just concluded Impeachment proceedings against Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza, whose dismissal from office the Senate rejected.

In the words of wisdom shared by senators after the Special Committee's tabling of its report on the botched impeachment attempt, this very issue came up, and was canvassed at length by the House. Despite Kenya having one of the world's arguably most progressive Constitution, Kenyans have a unique perception of leadership for all holders of elective seats.

Indeed, Kenyans are notorious for sending home most elected leaders at every election cycle; especially MPs and MCAs. In the mind of the ordinary Kenyan voter, demonstrable leadership to warrant a re-election must stem from tangible grassroots initiatives in delivery of the development projects the people can see.

The clamour by MCAs for a Ward Development kitty is not unique to our political discourses. In fact, earlier this year, my colleagues in the National Assembly went for August 2022 polls with a decisive Supreme Court Verdict on the illegality of the Constituency Development Fund hanging on their necks like the Proverbial Sword of the Damocles.

The Court had on eve of the last election ruled that fund directed at service delivery mandate was illegal because it was structured in a manner that entangles MPs, beyond their primary constitutional mandate of legislation and oversight.

The National Assembly, in close consultation with new Attorney General and former House Speaker Justin Muturi somehow managed to reverse the adverse implications of that verdict. In his opinion on the CDF the AG said NG-CDF 2015 technically remained in force, as the ruling in question was in reference to the older CDF Act of 2013.

He, however, advised that the National Assembly to move with speed and amend the law to streamline it to the Supreme Court judgement, in light of a separate upcoming verdict specifically on NG-CDF 2015.

CDF as a fund has done wonders, and if the Ward Development Fund is aligned to a similar model, more development will be witnessed at the grassroots without subjecting elected leaders to unnecessary pressure from the public. The panic witnessed in the National Assembly after the Supreme Court verdict on CDF, should serve as the wakeup call to my counterparts in that House to embrace bipartisanism, when we approach them with a similar bill on the MCAs ward kitty or the Senate oversight fund which we have been separately fighting for.

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