Uhuru, Raila BBI team retains powerful president, weak PM

President Uhuru Kenyatta (C) his deputy William Ruto (L) and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga during the launch of Building Bridges Initiative report at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on November 27, 2019. [File, Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga’s teams on constitutional reforms have settled on a hybrid system of governance, with a non-executive Prime Minister elected by MPs.

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) steering committee validating its task-force report, is scheduled to present its final document to Uhuru and Raila on Tuesday, proposing a mixture of presidential and parliamentary systems.

According to insiders aware of the contents of the crucial report, which they say is ready, save for the contentious issue on the two-thirds gender principle in the Legislature, the report will advocate for a powerful president and deputy as well as a PM with two deputies.

This means Kenyans will continue to elect their president, who remains the Head of State and Government. The report seeks to retain the Deputy President as the principal assistant to the President and will be the running mate.

Just like in the task-force report, the BBI team proposes that the Prime Minister may be dismissed by the President or through a vote of no confidence in the National Assembly.

The Prime Minister shall have supervision and execution of the day-to-day functions and affairs of the government, being the Leader of Government Business in the National Assembly. And on delegation by the President, the PM will chair Cabinet sub-committees.

A senior official within the committee said the PM would be elected by the largest party in the House. 

A member of the steering committee confided to Sunday Standard that the report largely reflects the recommendations in the report that was launched at Bomas of Kenya last year.

The source said the President would remain both the head of government and State, with a non-executive Prime Minister picked among MPs.

“There is no major departure from the report that was made public at Bomas of Kenya. The post of PM remains. The President will have nominated PM from among Members of Parliament for approval. There will be two deputies,” he said.

The team has also recommended that Nairobi county be “handled differently,” citing its status as the country’s capital city and the current challenges facing it.

“Our report is that Nairobi be addressed differently. You have seen Nairobi has some unique challenges that require special attention. The number of counties will have to remain 47,” added the member.?

“The counties will remain 47, with Nairobi as Metropolis with the county assembly. The issue of the executive will be settled by the leaders. This is a unique county and cannot be treated like others,” said an MP.

“We will also have Cabinet secretaries (CS) appointed from among MPs in Parliament while others from other fields,” he said.

Last Thursday, MPs, led by Budalangi MP Raphael Wanjala, protested over delays in addressing issues raised in the House and blamed the absence of CSs in the House as the main reason.

“When we seek a statement in this House, they take over three months to be addressed. Past speakers ensured they are solved within a week,” he said when he rose on a point of order over a statement sought by Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir on the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) cargo standoff in Mombasa County.

But Speaker Justin Muturi termed his assertions lamentation, saying: “You chose a presidential system. Choices have consequences. I sympathise with you, but it’s the governance structure we have. You should persuade Kenyans to change it.”

Muturi agreed with him that the previous structure was very effective because the Executive was in the House, as opposed to the current where committee chairs represent CSs.

For the structure of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) which is dominated by judges and magistrates and chaired by the Chief Justice (CJ), Sunday Standard learnt it was initially contentious but the issue had been resolved.

“It was not really a thorny issue. As per yesterday (Friday), the team had consulted and resolved not to interfere with it just like the other commissions and independent offices in Chapter 15 of the Constitution,” he said, attributing the standoff to complications by lawyers.  

The report is expected to propose the creation of an independent Treasury dealing with exchequer funds.

“The law requires an agency to deal with the revenue issues and therefore this independent office, whose structures will be legislated, will de-link the National Treasury and counties’ treasures from this office. It will be the overall and there is consensus among the team members,” stated another MP.

Also, governors and MCAs are going to be the biggest winners, as the Senator Yusuf Haji team proposes amendment to Article 203 to increase allocation to counties to 35 per cent.

Five per cent of the said amount from the most recent audited revenue by the Auditor General, approved by Parliament or not, will be ring-fenced with ward funds, modeled like the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF).

Article 203 states: “For every financial year, the equitable share of the revenue raised nationally that is allocated to county governments shall be not less than fifteen per cent of all revenue collected by the national government. The amount shall be calculated on the basis of the most recent audited accounts of revenue received, as approved by the National Assembly.”

Presently, allocations are based on 2013/2014 audited revenue, which the governors have faulted.

However, initial proposal to have governors nominate their running-mates from the opposite gender has been shelved by the committee.

The issue of an extension of the deadline for the committee’s work has also been ruled out, with opponents arguing that the mood of the country is to make public the document and commence the process of implementation.

The President and Raila are expected to engage this weekend and give a way out before the much-publicised report is finally made public.

The proposals by the committee is to scrap the affirmative action seats for the 47 women and allocate 63 slots to political parties to nominate women, to top up the numbers of those of single constituencies in the National Assembly.

In the Senate, the committee is recommending scrapping of the 20 women nomination slots and instead proposes the election of two senators per county; man and woman.

“As of Friday, the committee had consensus on a myriad issues, with the two thirds gender rule dividing them. There was no request for an extension and the deadline for the committee’s work is June 30,” disclose an official within the team.

He added: “The report will be submitted to the President and Raila for implementation, which will be in three phases; referendum, Parliament and administrative.”

On the issue of gender, which Parliament has been unable to implement since 2013, the committee members are reported to be divided, especially for Senate, for which they argue having two delegates from every county will water down its powers.

“This move will address the issue of gender rule. We will meet the threshold. This, however, cannot be achieved in the county assemblies, so the top-up will continue,” said an MP.