Speaker Muturi hosts CAF; pledges House support towards quest for the enhancement of County Assemblies’ Autonomy
The Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon.Justin Muturi has pledged the support of the National Assembly towards enhancing the autonomy of the County Assemblies through legislation.
Speaking when he met the leadership of the County Assemblies' Forum (CAF)led by the Chair, Hon. Wahome Ndegwa, Speaker Muturi underscored the role of independence of County Assemblies in the promotion of their effectiveness in oversighting the County Governments,and in ultimately strengthening devolution in Kenya.
" It is prudent that County Assemblies gain political and financial autonomy from the County Executive, which is critical for effective discharge of your Mandate. This will strengthen your oversight role and avert situations where manipulation by the County Executive cripples your ability to execute your mandate", observed Speaker Muturi.
The CAF leadership in a memorandum to the National Assembly had sought among others, the support of the House in the enactment of the County Ward (Equitable Development) Bill, and in establishing financial autonomy of County Assemblies to facilitate the effective execution of their mandate.
While stressing the need for the County Ward Bill to be enacted into law, the CAF leadership noted that the bill would be key in ensuring that development is achieved equitably across their counties. They cited cases where some areas which are deemed to be unfriendly to the County Governments have been receiving skewed budgetary allocations thus slowing developments.
They also highlighted cases where budgetary allocations with regard to capital investments are heavily concentrated at the County Headquarters, to the chagrin of County Assemblies who according to the law can only alter their County Budgets to the ceiling of 1%.
The County Ward (Equitable Development) Bill, 2018, which mirrors the National Government Constituencies' Development Fund (which is currently implemented under the patron-ship of the Members of the National Assembly) is sponsored by the Senate Majority Whip, Sen. Irungu Kang'ata. The bill is currently under consideration by the National Assembly after the Senate referred it there for concurrence.
"The County Budget making cycle has become a war point between Governors and County Speakers. While certain county assemblies may pronounce themselves to irreducible minimum on allocations going to roads, health or even water, they are not based on any legal framework and they may be votoed by Governors without any recourse from the Assemblies", noted Hon. Wahome.
With regard to the financial autonomy of County Assemblies, the Chairman further expressed their difficulties in ensuring certain mandatory operations are met this hindering their effective discharge of duties. They noted that lack of autonomy leaves them at the mercies of County executives, thus compromising their capacity to oversight the executive.
The Senate Committee on Devolution has already made a legislative proposal to amend section 119 of the Public Finance Management Act ,2012, thus guaranteeing county assemblies autonomy from the county executives in their finances, but this requires the concurrence of both Houses to be enacted.
The meeting also deliberated on the proposal by CAF for its entrenchment in law as the National Commission for County Legislatures with operational autonomy and funding from the exchequer, and a proposal for the provision of Pensions for Members of County Assemblies, both of which require critical support from the National Assembly.
CAF further expressed their reservations with regard to the Impeachment Procedure Bill that introduces procedural safeguards with regard to the removal of County Speakers and Deputy Speakers from office, and which was recently passed by the Houses of Parliament and is awaiting assent.
Meanwhile, Speaker Muturi and CAF leadership noted that there is need for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to streamline the nomination process to the County Assemblies. In the past, Governors who are largely believed to influence nominations to the country assemblies, have been accused of using these nominees as protégés to undermine the independence of County Speakers and their deputies.
"The process of nomination to County Assemblies is very critical and IEBC ought to streamline it.I am told in some instances the number of nominees is more than half of the elected representatives, ultimately undermining the democratic principle of representation", Speaker Muturi noted.
Hon. Ndegwa who currently serves as the Speaker of the Nyandarua County Assembly was accompanied by Machakos County Assembly Speaker, Hon. Florence Mwangangi, Tinderet MCA Kipkurui Chepkwony and CAF CEO, Ms. Judy Oduma