Never-say-die: Aukot returns with new ideas to change law

Thirdway Alliance Party leader Ekuru Aukot during a press conference at party headquarters in Nairobi on Monday, February 17, 2020. [David Njaaga,Standard]

Thirdway Alliance party leader Ekuru Aukot yesterday launched a fresh initiative to amend the Constitution, four months after a similar plan flopped.

Dr Aukot had earlier said the new Punguza Mizigo Kenya contained lessons learned from the failed Punguza Mizigo Bill 2019 that failed to be endorsed by 24 of 47 counties in October last year.

Changes to the Constitution will once again be proposed by a popular initiative signed by at least one million registered voters, with the Aukot-led group adopting a digital and manual registration format.

The party leader said after consulting the public, the party had identified 10 areas where change was sorely needed, down from 16 in the previous Bill.

The most notable was the plan to abolish the Senate, which is a major departure from the previous proposal that aimed to elevate it to the Upper House in Parliament with powers to veto the National Assembly.

According to Aukot, scrapping the Senate and reducing over-representation will lower the cost of running Parliament from Sh36 billion to Sh5 billion.

The party also seeks increased allocations to the counties to 50 per cent of the total national revenue, up from 35 per cent that had been proposed earlier.

Radical proposal

The devolved regions currently benefit from disbursements pegged at 15 per cent of revenue.

Another radical proposal aims to make governors responsible for county funds. The move, Aukot said, sought to hold the county bosses accountable for any misappropriation of funds.

“We must make them, expressly in the Constitution, the chief county accounting officer so that when money disappears, we come for their necks first and foremost. We will not go for small people,” he said.

The new proposals also suggest making education and healthcare services free for Kenyans. This, by Aukot’s account, will be achieved by reducing misuse of public funds.

“Every year, we are sending Sh10 billion to India because Kenyans must go there to seek treatment. If we had that Sh10 billion we would fix the collective bargaining agreements with nurses and doctors. We would also ensure that our hospitals have basic things like oxygen,” he said.

Aukot is also rooting for the abolishment of taxes and levies on petroleum, liquefied petroleum gas and electricity as well as the creation of agro-processing industries to be funded using 10 per cent of national revenue that would be set aside for the next five years.

Also new is an export ban of the country’s natural resources in their raw form. Thirty per cent of revenue from these natural resources should also be paid to the counties from which the resources originate.

In a bid to quickly expedite corruption-related cases, Aukot proposes a three-month time-frame to dispense with such matters. The previous Bill wanted corruption cases handled within 30 days.

Other suggested changes include the reduction of ministries, the abolishment of county and regional commissioner posts, and the merger of parastatals with duplicated functions.

But not everything has changed. Aukot’s party is still seeking the scrapping of the deputy governor’s position, the creation of a ward development fund, and capping of the number of commissions in independent commissions at five with salaries earned on a part-time basis.

Diaspora voters

And just like in the previous rejected Bill, the fresh initiative proposes to scrap the voter registration process and ensure any citizen with an identity card is eligible to vote. It also adds a requirement to enable diaspora voters participate in elections.

Other retained proposals include life imprisonment for convicts of corruption cases and barring individuals adversely mentioned in graft scandals from contesting public office.

Some of the controversial proposals that have been dropped include reducing the number of constituencies to 47, down from 290, as well as slashing the number of Members of Parliament from 417 to 147.

Also shelved is a 50-50 gender equality proposal for the more conservative one-third gender recommendation as enshrined in the Constitution.

The presidential term limit has also been retained at 10 years.