Governors make fresh, radical demands on BBI

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020 00:00 |
Governors at Enashipai Spa in Naivasha yesterday where they reached a middle ground on most changes proposed in the Building Bridges Initiative report. They agreed to drop the requirement that a governor picks a woman as the running-mate in the coming elections. Photo/PD/Kirera Mwiti

Governors yesterday tabled fresh, radical demands on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, including cushioning themselves from prosecution over corruption allegations and removal of a clause requiring them to appoint deputies from the opposite gender.

In what could herald a new battlefront in the BBI campaigns, the governors demanded to be given a free hand to appoint deputies from either gender, adding that the status quo should prevail.

Currently, governors can appoint their deputies without caring whether they are male or female.

“Deputy Governors should remain as running mates to the Governor and should be of either gender,” the county bosses said in a statement read by Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya.

After a stormy two-day retreat in Naivasha, the governors forged a united front in calling for several key amendments and additions to the BBI report which is expected to change the country’s governance structure.

In a proposal that is bound to raise eyebrows, the county bosses moved to cushion themselves from prosecution over corruption allegations at the county level, saying that collective criminal responsibility should be removed.

Instead, they said the principle of personal criminal culpability should take precedence.

“You cannot be punished for a mistake committed by somebody else,” Oparanya said.

The proposal comes at a time when several governors are facing corruption cases in various courts and remain barred from stepping into their offices.

They include Samburu’s Moses Lenolkulal, Okoth Obado (Migori), Mike Sonko (Nairobi), former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu, Ali Korane  (Garrisa) and Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi). 

Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong’ also has a long running corruption case in court but unlike his colleagues, he has not been barred from stepping into office during the duration of the case.

Key demands

On inclusivity, the governors  bosses proposed creation of the position of deputy ministers picked from Parliament.

They also want the proposal for the establishment of a Judiciary Ombudsman removed, arguing it might compromise independence of the Judiciary.

On the relationship between the two Houses of Parliament, the governors proposed that the Senate to be given the “veto powers over all Bills”, saying the move would strengthen devolution. 

In another radical proposal likely to raise political temperatures, the governors proposed the establishment of a pension fund for themselves, their deputies, county speakers and members of county assemblies and other county state officers as is the case at the national level.

There was confusion at Enashipai Resort, the venue of the meeting, after President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga “snubbed” the meeting although it had been communicated that they would attend.

Oparanya, however, downplayed fears that the two principals had snubbed their meeting, saying although they were scheduled to attend, the programme changed because “our meeting had taken too long”.

He added that in any case, one of the principals addressed the county bosses virtually.

He explained that their proposals would be forwarded to the two principals and the BBI task force for consideration.

“The above proposals, alongside those from the County Assemblies, will be shared with the two principals and the secretariat of the Building Bridges Initiative for further consultation,” said Oparanya.

 Yesterday, the county bosses appeared to put up a united front in tabling their list of demands, a departure from the stormy debate that characterised the first day of deliberations with the county bosses openly clashing over some of the proposals, including the one that a governor and deputy be picked from opposite gender.

In their proposals, the governors demanded that their umbrella body in negotiations with the national government dubbed the “Governors Summit”, the national council of legislatures and the council of county governors be entrenched in the Constitution.

In addressing the perennial late release of funds by the national Treasury, the county bosses want the disbursement schedule of money to the counties to be anchored in the Constitution in order to address the delays that have often caused friction between the devolved units and the national government.

In order to ensure timely release of funds to be disbursed to counties, the governors also demanded that the disbursement schedule as prescribed by legislation should be submitted to the Central Bank by the Speaker of the Senate for implementation within 14 days of passage of the Division of Revenue Act, they said.

Apart from proposing that the regional economic blocs be entrenched in the Constitution, the county bosses also want 35 per cent of funds allocated to parastatals and other agencies performing devolved functions to be transferred to the counties.

And, in a bid to boost food security, the governors said the agriculture, livestock and fisheries sectors should be allocated a minimum of 10 per cent of total county budget while health takes not less than 30 per cent.

Interestingly, the governors said the youth function would be allocated at least 2.5 per cent.

The governors’ forum also made some proposals for amendments to the office of the Controller of Budget in what appears to be a calculated move to whittle down its supervisory functions over utilisation of public funds.

“To speed up the flow of funds to the counties, we propose that the office of the Controller of Budget is decentralised to all the 47 county governments,” they said.

“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.” 

The county bosses also want the national Treasury to be established as an independent institution to serve both levels of government, adding that IFMIS systems should be adopted—separately—one for the national government and another for county governments.

The county bosses also want to be given authority to borrow funds specifically for development and that the Director of Public Prosecutions and the National Police Service Commission should continue operating as is in the current Constitution.  

At the same time, the governors want to be involved in security matters at both the national and county level particularly in National Security Advisory Council and implement the County Policing Authority.

 Opposition Odinga although termed some of the amendments as “editorial work”, was categorical that no major changes will be made in the report.

In a message posted in his official twitter account , Raila insisted only issues raised by some groups like the pastrolists community that were not captured in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report will be included in the document.

“There is significantly little chance of significant new ideas being brought in to the BBI document ahead of the referendum, except for editorial work to make it explicit on demands by various groups where it sounds vague or general as is the case with the issues of pastrolists,” he said.

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