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Governors may no longer work without deputies, full cabinet

By Eric Abuga and Everlyn Kwamboka | November 17th 2019
Nairobi County Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko inspecting a guard of honour mounted by City County Askaris on September 29, 2017. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

It will no longer be business as usual for governors who operate without their deputies or fully constituted cabinets if Parliament passes a proposed law.

Senate Committee on Devolution chairman John Kinyua said some governors are taking advantage of the lacuna in law to operate without fully constituted governments.

The Bill currently before the National Assembly for concurrence with the Senate provides for how to fill the office of the deputy governor when it falls vacant and gives the number of cabinet members that should be in the office at any given time. The County Government Amendment Bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen states that a governor should make the appointment of his deputy within 14 days of the office falling vacant, but with approval of the county assembly.

Fall out

Governors of Nairobi and Bomet counties have been operating without deputies.

For instance, Nairobi has been without a deputy governor since January 2018 when Polycap Igathe resigned after fall out with Governor Mike Sonko.

This saw Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja take the debate on Sonko’s long search for a deputy to the Senate in April on the grounds that the capital city’s government is not properly constituted. However, the Nairobi Governor whose candidates for the position have been rejected argued that there is no law to compel him to nominate a deputy governor.

In Bomet County, Governor Hillary Barchok is racing against time to pick a  deputy after taking office following the death of Governor Joyce Laboso.

He has since nominated Assembly Speaker David Rotich for the position.

For West Pokot, the Senate has questioned the whereabouts of Deputy Governor Nicholas Atudonyang who has hardly been in the country since he was sworn into office.

Absent deputy

Governor John Lonyangapuo recently told a parliamentary committee that he has no powers to force his absent deputy to return from Texas, USA where he lives.

But even as the three governors struggle with the deputy issue, some counties are also operating without fully constituted cabinets.

Kinyua, who is the Laikipia Senator, said some Chief Officers had acting for more than six months but instead of being confirmed, governors evade the law by moving them from one ministry to another.

“This is corruption. You do not want a Chief Officer to be confirmed to that position,” he added. In Nyamira County, anxiety is building as Governor John Nyagarama battles out with the assembly to fill 21 key positions including 10 cabinet members whose contracts expired a month ago.

The county government has been without substantive chief officers for two years. County Secretary Eric Onchana also went home after the expiry of his term.

Names of 10 chief officers presented to the county assembly more than two months ago are yet to be approved by the assembly.

The governor last month placed an advert in the dailies seeking to recruit 10 new county executives but asked the current officer holder to stay in office indefinitely.

A week ago, Mr Nyagarama appointed the outgoing Lands executive Zablon Onchiri as Acting County Secretary.

The office holder is responsible for keeping minutes of the county executive committee subject to the directions of the executive committee.

The current county executives have applied for reappointment. However, the Nyamira governor faces a hurdle in trying to balance clans, youth and religion in the appointments. Nyamira has 20 wards all targeting to get a slot in the Cabinet.

A source within the county executive told the Sunday Standard that operations at the devolved unit are not at optimum level.

“Members of the assembly who are supposed to approve the names are soon going for recess and that means that the earliest we can have a full constituted cabinet is February next year,” the source said

Bomet governor Hilary Barchok has also had challenges in convening a cabinet meeting due to lack of quorum occasioned by the assembly’s decision to reject some of nominees for county executive.

Term ended

Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o recently sacked three county executives and nominated his economic advisor George Okong’o to take over the Finance docket.

But even with some of the counties having made changes to their cabinets, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho is back on the drawing board after the term of his entire cabinet ended on November 12.

Mr Joho has vowed to pick new faces after evaluation of the team he has worked with since he came into office in 2013.

Nandi County has been operating without four county executives until last Monday when Governor Stephen Sang’s nominees was approved by the assembly.

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