National administrative officers will be safe in Raila Odinga's government

Raila Odinga speaks at Homabay Stadium during his Homabay campaign tour on 3rd July 2022. [Photo Michael Mute, Standard]

Positions of national government administrative officers are assured in the Azimio government. The officers include County Commissioner, Deputy County Commissioner, Assistant County Commissioner, Chief, Assistant Chief and Village Elders. Their specific duties include overseeing the implementation of national government projects; carrying out general administrative duties; coordinating maintenance of law and order; and ensuring the security of government assets, facilities and inventory.

They are also tasked with coordinating disaster management to ensure people receive needed aid in a timely manner during and after a major disaster; initiating peace-building initiatives and identifying persons for national and civil registration. The promulgation of the 2010 Constitution, however, generated a major debate on the relationship between the national government and the devolved units in regard to the legitimacy of the administrative officers in the country’s governance structure.

Debate in respect to the County Commissioners’ role arose when President Mwai Kibaki appointed the first batch under the Sixth Schedule of the new Constitution. The debate was exacerbated and made worse by the High Court ruling in 2012 by Justice Mumbi Ngugi, which declared the appointments unconstitutional. However, some legal minds were of the opinion that following the enactment of the National Government Co-ordination Act, the County Commissioners were actually accorded the necessary legitimacy, thus assuaging the legality debate.

They argued that the County Governors’ role was limited to county government functions under the 2010 Constitution and did not include matters of national security. It was noted that the Constitution placed national security under the ambit of the national government and the purview of the County Commissioner at the County level. The Constitution envisaged inter-dependency between the county and national government, they maintained.

The proponents cited Section 20 of the Act, where a public officer who immediately before the Act commenced was serving as a Chief, Assistant Chief or an Administrative Officer, shall be deemed to be a national government Administrative Officer appointed under the Act.  Thus County Commissioners who were serving as Administrative officers before the Act commenced, were deemed to be appointed under the Act.

Azimio places a premium on the law and in view of the foregoing allays any concerns that it is planning to phase out administrative officers in the event it assumes power in August 2022. This apprehension is aptly dispelled by the Party’s manifesto in the 4th Pillar on governance under devolution, in which it commits to facilitating seamless inter and intra-governmental relations to improve efficiency in governance as envisioned in the Constitution.

This is one area where the national administrators will come in to help foster the same. Azimio also commits to national policies and laws at both county and national government levels, which equally integrate administrators at both government levels. Within the realm of national security and safety, the manifesto identifies the opportunity to improve disaster preparedness, a core mandate of administrative officers, in mitigating and responding to aggravated disasters like perennial floods and drought.

To this end Azimio commits to upscale disaster prevention, preparedness, and response through the National Drought Contingency Fund, focusing on trickle down to counties and wards and operationalising a national Emergency Disaster and Crisis Management strategy.

The pillar on social transformation is another area where national administrators are expected to play a key role, particularly the social protection welfare facet where the manifesto identifies as an opportunity a large number of citizens not able to access basic services. To mitigate this, Azimio is committing to social assistance through cash transfer of Sh6, 000 per month to each vulnerable household and providing social assistance to single mothers and widows. Who will help identify these people? The administrators, of course!

In a nutshell, the few cited pillars, are proof enough that national government administrators will be an integral part of the Azimio agenda implementation and will enjoy unfettered mandate to execute their duties.

Mr Omolo is a communication consultant with the ODM Party