CJ Koome calls for regular review of county laws, policies

Chief Justice Martha Koome. [James Wanzala, Standard]

Chief Justice Martha Koome has challenged counties to regularly review policies and laws.

Justice Koome also called for training of stakeholders including those involved in formulating the laws and policies.

This follows a study by National Council for Law Reporting Kenya Law and ForumCiv, a Swedish civil society platform that was done between August and December 2023.

On May 11, 2023, the two organisations signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to work together and carry out the study.

The study in Narok, Kajiado and Nakuru counties revealed a lack of regular review mechanisms of existing laws and policies.

The study was also meant to establish gaps in formulating and implementing policies and assess capacity needs among technical officers.

It also focused on policies and laws on education, water and environment, health; HIV/Aids; sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), gender and persons with disabilities (PWDs) and public participation.

“The findings stress the importance of continuous, tailored training for all stakeholders involved in policy development - from county officials, members of the civil society, to community members - empowering them to contribute knowledgeably and constructively to the process of policy formulation. This would also encourage the community to feel a sense of ownership of the resultant policies, having been equipped with the right tools,” said Justice Koome.

According to the study, majority of the stakeholders had an intermediate level of technical expertise at 75 per cent and the three counties had no policies on education and health.

The study involved 374 respondents, 41 male, 43 female, three PWDs and 12 youth.

"There is a need for regular review of existing policies. With the change of government and change of priorities due to the social, economic and political circumstances, regular review of policies is essential to address various developmental issues. The counties should develop guidelines on how policies can be reviewed and how often they ought to be reviewed,” Koome said.

The CJ said effective public participation in the policy formulation process should be enhanced by respective county governments. 

“The capacity to facilitate public participation should be enhanced in both levels of government through a partnership between the governments, non-state actors and development partners,” she said.

“A comprehensive and adequately funded civic education should be initiated and sustained by the county governments so that citizen awareness is equally enhanced,” she added.

Koome said there is need to establish county legal resource centres in wards, so that residents do not rely on local leadership as the main source of information, which will have the potential of making policies more accessible, retrievable and easily stored.

According to the study, counties rely on local leaders through word of mouth and public meetings, followed by social media and other various media sources and notice boards.

"The study found duplication of Acts and disconnect between policies and legislation in terms of limited access to policies and laws, most counties do not have polices that underpin them and cross-cutting issues are not properly incorporated in policies apart from lack of review mechanisms," said Kenya Law Deputy chief executive officer Janet Munywoki. 

The CJ said there is need for law revision training for County Attorneys.

She emphasized that laws are amended and there is need for the Office of County Attorney to be capacitated to comprehensively undertake their law revision function pursuant to Office of the County Attorney Act.

Koome encouraged County Attorneys to partner with Kenya Law to assist them to revise and consolidate laws.

Regional Manager for Eastern and Southern Africa at ForumCiv, Jackson Obare, said inclusive growth must be backed up by solid polices and legislative agenda that enhances the effective implementation of programmes across counties and national government.

Nakuru County Attorney Caleb Nyamwange, who is also the County Attorneys Forum chairman committed to ensure that all the recommendations of the study are implemented.

"The three counties will establish a legal resource centre and Bill Tracker for the executives and for Nakuru, we have already established a resource centre facility that will soon be functional," he said.

The study recommended that counties elevate skills of technical officers policy formulation, legislative drafting and law revision, digitise county legislation-making process, embrace public private partnership with all stakeholders and do continuous civic education.

Council of Governors chief executive officer Mary Mwiti promised to ensure all the 47 counties put in place mechanisms of public participation. She said all counties have established the office of Director of Public Participation.

"Counties such as Makueni and Mombasa have already enacted public participation policies,” she said.

Angela Nguku, founder and executive director of White Ribbon Alliance Kenya regretted that some counties do not have health and education policies yet they get funding for those purposes.