Senate calls for counties inclusion and equality audit

National Assembly and Senate Buildings during the 13th Parliament opening on September 29th,2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The Senate has asked National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) and National Cohesion and Integration Commission to conduct independent audits of county governments in critical aspects of inclusion, equality and non-discrimination.

NGEC Chairperson Joyce Mutinda who appeared before the Senate National Cohesion, Equal Opportunity and Regional Integration Committee said that the audit should cover County Assemblies and executive to provide long-term measures for entrenching principles of gender equality and inclusion.

Dr Mutinda told the committee chaired by Mohammed Chute (Marsabit Senator) that the Senate and Council of Governors should develop guidelines or legal framework to manage transition to enable incoming executive and the county assemblies to perform their functions as soon as they are sworn in and within the period specified by law.

“There are cases where appointments of County Executive Committee Members and Chief Officers among other key officers in the county government are halted unnecessarily for too long due to injunctions, community acrimony, personal differences between the governor and the county assemblies, or contractual handles,” she said.

The Gender Commission Chairperson said there was a need to professionally deal with cases where county Chief Officers have a contract running way beyond the life of the second county government without attracting legal consequences.

Dr Mutinda called for continuous public awareness to enable communities to protect and claim right of representation with the program targeting men as enablers of gender equality with the involvement of the Senate, National Assembly, ministries and respective constitutional commissions.

She said there was need to strengthen the Council of Governors to continuously support counties to comply with the minimum requirements for gender equality and inclusion in collaboration with key stakeholders including NGEC, county executives, Chief Officers among others.

“We recommend full operationalisation in all counties with the Intergovernmental Consultation Framework for Gender Sector and the Intergovernmental County Gender Sector Working groups or their equivalent to coordinate programs designed to increase women engagement and involvement in leadership and decision making,” said Dr Mutinda.

The NGEC chairperson said that the state with the support of the development partners needs to increase investment on gender agenda which may be factored in the proceedings of the summit and the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council.

Dr Mutinda noted that at the Executive level, the actualization of the bottom-up economic transformation model coupled with strategic investment in women and youth empowerment programs is a step towards tackling community level gender inequalities.

Council of Governors Chief Executive Officer Mary Mwiti who appeared before the committee said that county governments have put in place measures to ensure the realization of the two-thirds gender rule.

Ms Mwiti said some of these measures include ensuring the inclusion of an internal gender perspective in the recruitment and development processes with this being witnessed in the recent appointments of the County Executive Committee Members and the Chief officers.

“There are 144 female CECs against 300 male CECs in all the 47 county governments additionally there are 192 female Chief Officers against 469 male Chief Officers in 39 counties with some of the county governments yet to appoint Chief Officers including Kwale, Garissa, Marsabit, Murang'a, Kiambu, Baringo, Vihiga and Kisumu,” she said.

The Council CEO noted that the county governments have set up gender departments to oversee and coordinate gender mainstreaming activities to ensure compliance with the gender equality, diversity and inclusivity principles provided by the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and the County Government Act 2012.

She said that county governments have established technical working groups on leadership and decision making that provide technical support in developing policies and programmes that promote women's leadership and decision-making.

“Counties have enacted gender-responsive legislation that promotes the rights and issues of women and girls and have adopted gender-responsive budgeting which ensures budgetary allocations and spending take into account the specific needs and priorities of women and men in the county,” said Mwiti.

The Council CEO noted that the provision of affirmative action fund ensures financial support to women who wish to start businesses or apply for county tenders, run for elective or any other leadership positions.

She said that many counties have invested in capacity building of women leaders through training and mentorship programs to enhance their skills and competencies in governance and leadership.