Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga has stepped up the push for regional governments, days after President Uhuru Kenyatta called for the amending of the Constitution.
And Mr Kenyatta’s statement on the eve of the 2010 Constitution’s 10th anniversary that “the moment to improve on it is now” sparked protests too.
Mr Odinga said a third tier of government – fourteen regional governments proposed in the Bomas Draft – would make devolution effective, arguing that some counties are not economically viable.
He fought off suggestions that his idea would only create jobs for politicians since it is popular with the more than 20 second term governors.
“Counties will merely be administrative units under the arrangement,” he told journalists at his Capitol Hill office on Thursday.
He said the regional governments would host the executive and legislative arms of the devolved units.
The number of governors will reduce from 47 to 14 and the devolved parliaments to 14, according to the proposal.
Created 14 regions
The Bomas draft had created 14 regions as the second tier and 73 districts as the third.
A regional government is to have executive and legislative authority while districts would have an executive headed by a governor and a council as the legislative arm.
The President on Wednesday last week said the makers of the Constitution termed it “a work in progress” and “we were made to adopt it with the promise that we will make it better”.
“Ten years after our progressive Constitution, the moment calls us to do better. Instead of a ceasefire document that enforces a zero-sum game in which the winner takes it all, the moment calls us to create a constitutional order that will long endure,” Mr Kenyatta said.
However, critics say changes sponsored by the Executive since 1963 have only been about political jobs and eroding the rights of citizens.
Law Society of Kenya President Nelson Havi said the current Constitution has served the country well, “but there are few problems attributed not to the Constitution but the elected and appointed leaders”.
“The Constitution is an inconvenience to the political class. The problem is not the chair but the person who occupies it. We cannot trust politicians with amending the Constitution two years to the General Election. The Constitution needs to be implemented,” Mr Havi said.
Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi, who is against any amendments, said the Constitution must be “faithfully” implemented.
“The government should put on hold plans to amend the Constitution and instead focus on reviving the economy. Why are we making Kenyans believe that changing the Constitution is the answer to our problems?” he asked in a Sunday TV interview.
Civil society groups say they will only support the amendments “only if the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report will address the gender equality question, separation of powers and having a non-costly Executive”.
“We reject any of the proposals in the BBI report that will appear to be retrogressive, especially those that undermine gender equality and the separation of powers,” Civil Societies Reference Group chairman Suba Churchill said on Thursday.
The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) taskforce has made far-reaching recommendations to abolish the 47 county governments and replace them with 14 regional governments.
A draft proposal of the BBI report seen by People Daily proposed drastic changes to the devolved units to make them more responsive to the needs of Kenyans.
The taskforce recommends the repeal of the County Governments Act 2012 and replace it with the Devolved Governments Act through a referendum which will also create the regional governments as was envisioned in the Bomas Draft.
The move, the team proposes, should pave the way for introduction of a regional premier, deputy regional premier or their equivalent to oversee the new system.
Earlier this year, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga called for the creation of a three-tier system of governance, with the introduction of regional governments.
He described some counties under the current devolution system as uncompetitive due to population size and other related factors.
Raila noted that regional governments would be more viable economically.
“One of the facts we’re dealing with but hardly acknowledge is that a number of our counties as they are today are too tiny to compete and to marshal internal and external resources for development,” he said.
The BBI draft report also proposes the set-up of Regional Public Service Boards (RBSB) as the panacea for skewed appointments in counties, that have been marred by claims of nepotism, tribalism and cronyism. The taskforce exudes confidence the proposed boards will “reduce corruption and nepotism in employment in county public service by abolishing County Public Service Boards and creating Regional Public Service Boards”.
Further, the taskforce recommends the creation of the position of County Police Chief, who will be elected within the framework of counties.
And in what could be a big win for devolution, the team proposes that nearly 50 per cent of national revenue be allocated to devolved units.
“Allocate 45 per cent of the national revenue to devolved governments (13.5 per cent to regional governments and 26.5 per cent to county governments),” draft report reads in part.
Last month, the Council of Governors (CoG) proposed that the equitable share of the revenue raised nationally for County Governments not be less than 45 per cent of the previous year’s revenue collected by the National Government and calculated on the basis of declared exchequer accounts.
It further proposed that each county to provide a minimum of 1.5 per cent of its development budget to the economic blocs and 0.5 per cent to the Council of Governors.
The BBI taskforce regretted that devolution of various functions was not matched with commensurate resources.
On policing, the team proposes that regions have own command structures for rapid deployment of forces.
At the height of terrorist attacks in Kenya, governors demanded greater role in maintaining security.
This would give them powers to deploy police on the ground without first seeking permission from the force’s central command in Nairobi. Governors, especially in Northeastern region, have complained the slow response from police in case of security threats.
The police service currently operates under a single command chain headed by the Inspector General of Police.
Governor’s role in maintaining security is limited to chairing the county policing authority, a local body which monitors security threats but has no direct powers to deploy forces.
On county legislative process, the BBI taskforce proposes the creation of regional assemblies comprising all members of county assemblies in each region.
It also prescribes clear academic, professional and ethical qualifications for the members so as to infuse capacity to legislate and oversight.
Additionally, it recommends creation of regional Ombudsman to handle issues affecting counties.