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BBI: Governors corner Uhuru and Raila with list of tough demands

By Kennedy Gachuhi and Antony Gitonga | November 11th 2020
President Uhuru Kenyatta with ODM leader Raila Odinga at Jomo Kenyatta sports ground now renamed Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Sport complex on October 22, 2020. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Governors have proposed a raft of changes to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report.

After their sixth extraordinary Council of Governors (CoG) meeting in Naivasha yesterday, the county bosses called for the Senate to be strengthened by ensuring that it has veto powers on all Bills.

They also propose the introduction of deputy ministers who would be picked from Parliament, and a Senate that would have more powers over the National Assembly.

This is likely to receive a backlash from members of the National Assembly if a recent row that saw 23 laws passed by MPs declared unconstitutional for not having the Senate’s input is anything to go by.

The governors also want the Intergovernmental Summit, National Council for County Legislature and the CoG entrenched in the Constitution and in regional economic blocs.

To speed up the flow of funds to the counties, they want the Office of the Controller of Budget decentralised to 47 counties.

“Additionally, the role of the Controller of Budget should only be limited to ensuring that funds disbursed are in conformity with the budget, and that the Controller of Budget does not perform the functions of the Auditor General or any other investigative agencies,” said Wycliffe Oparanya, the CoG chair.

The Kakamega governor said the proposals, alongside those from the county assemblies, will be shared with President Uhuru Kenyatta, ODM leader Raila Odinga and the BBI secretariat, for further consultation.

Among other amendments, governors want the Treasury to be established as an independent institution to serve both levels of government, and counties authorised to borrow for development purposes.

They also want counties to ensure not less than 10 per cent of the total budget is allocated to agriculture, livestock and fisheries, and not less than 30 per cent to health and 2.5 per cent to the youth.

Governors further proposed that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) be devolved.

President Kenyatta and Raila had earlier been expected to join the governors at the two-day retreat also attended by the leadership of county assemblies, but they did not.

Among the sticky issues during deliberations was a proposal to have those running for governor seat pick running mates of the opposite gender.

Nyeri Deputy Governor Caroline Karugu, who chairs the Deputy Governors Forum, said they had finally agreed to allow governor candidates freedom to pick their running mates.

“It was an issue that placed me in a precarious position. In the end, we have agreed that governors be allowed to pick running mates of their choice where gender shall be a variable like any other,” Karugu said.

Governors had opposed the proposal by the BBI, saying this would pose a challenge in consolidating support from the electorate.

Deputy governors won the fight to be granted official roles after it was resolved that they should have departments to handle alongside other members of the County Executive Committee.

“Deputy governors should be given... preferably the docket of Finance and Economic Planning,” Karugu said.

They backed Uhuru’s proposal to have corruption cases fast-tracked to limit interference in the running of counties.

“Counties have been left to suffer when governors are involved in graft cases and are told to step aside. These cases should be concluded fast to ensure county operations resume at the earliest,” she said.

With a number of the governors set to leave after serving their second terms by 2022, they are now pushing for lifetime retirement benefits.

“We propose that a pension fund be established for governors, their deputies, county speakers, ward representatives and other county State officers as it is the case with the president, his deputy, speakers, MPs and State officers in the national government,” Oparanya said.

With more money set to be released to the counties, increasing chances of corruption, the governors now want the law to be more focused on personal responsibility on such crimes.

“Collective criminal responsibility in the management of resources at the county government should be removed and aligned with the principle of personal criminal culpability. The president is never punished for the graft of a Cabinet Secretary,” said Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana.

To fast-track the release of funds to the county governments, the county chiefs called for the realignment of the National Treasury, Controller of Budget and the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS).

“National Treasury should be independent to serve the county and national governments. We should have two IFMIS systems, one for each level of government,” Oparanya said.

Ward representatives however could not agree with the county bosses on some issues, which they vowed to submit to Kenyatta and Raila separately.

“We have agreed that there are issues that uniquely touch on governors, deputies and MCAs. We shall hold a consultative meeting with all MCAs and submit our resolutions to the two principals on our own,” said Ndegwa Wahome who chairs the County Assemblies Forum (CAF).

The MCAs wanted an enhancement of revenue to be allocated to the Ward Development Fund from the five per cent recommended in the BBI report to 30 per cent.

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