Dialogue committee focussed more on political interests, not Wanjiku

National Dialogue Committee co-chairs former VP Kalonzo Musyoka and Majority Leader Kimani Ichung'wah. [Samson Wire, Standard]

The National Dialogue Committee (NADCO), chaired by Former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung'wah, presented its report to the President and the Azimio coalition leader at the end of November.

NADCO was mandated to tackle the two-thirds gender rule, high cost of living, loyalty to political parties and coalitions, enshrining political party funds in the Constitution and establishing the offices of the Opposition leader and the Prime Cabinet Secretary.

Among other things, the hearings highlighted our history of irresponsible borrowing and corruption, the state of the economy and police misconduct during the protests over the high cost of living.

The Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o recently made a startling allegation of three-fold exaggeration of her salary in the budget estimates, pointing to budget corruption.

Observers point out that the NADCO recommendations were underwhelming because they offer no concrete solutions to the problems that bedevil Kenya, such as corruption, tribalism, unlawful policing, human rights violations and disregard for the rule of law and constitutionalism, among others.

The process seemingly was meant to appease the political class. For instance, it was an open secret that both parties at the onset wanted the entrenchment of funds and the creation of new offices despite the grim economic outlook.

As expected, the NADCO recommends entrenchment of National Government Constituency Development Fund (NGCDF) and other funds for Women Representatives and Senators, despite an August 2022 Supreme Court decision declaring the NGCDF unconstitutional and invalid because it violates public finance principles on the division of revenue between national and county governments.

According to the Supreme Court, any fund directed at service delivery can be constitutionally compliant only if it does not entangle MPs or the National Assembly in the discharge of services. The court recommended that such funds be integrated within the county executive or national executive structures.

According to the doctrine of separation of powers between the executive and legislature, MPs cannot execute or implement projects that are the province of county and national governments. There was a walkout by MPs this week who were protesting the failure of the Treasury to remit NGCDF funds. They claimed that three-quarters of students would be unable to return to school without the funds. Will MPs agree to empower counties to administer the funds for the sake of the students?

The committee recommended establishment of the Office of the Leader of the official Opposition based on the leader of the largest party that garnered the second highest number of votes immediately preceding the presidential election.

It also recommended that the President appoint a Prime Minister after the National Assembly approves the nominee. It is noteworthy that the Constitution establishes neither office. Like most of the recommendations, they would require an expensive referendum to entrench.

The NADCO recommended a larger selection panel for the IEBC commissioners who will play an integral role in electoral justice and boundary delimitation.

The recommendations on the cost of living and fiscal responsibility have been criticised for failing to address endemic corruption, budget deficit, debt sustainability, and the slipping value of the shilling, among other issues.

They suggested cost-cutting measures, such as a 50 per cent reduction in travel budgets and a 30 per cent reduction in allowances for state and public officers. In collaboration with the National Treasury, the committee also advised the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum to decrease the road maintenance levy by Sh5 and the anti-adulteration levy by Sh3 per litre.