Prime Minister post, more cash to counties in BBI proposals

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020 00:00 |

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Handshake partner Raila Odinga yesterday received the final Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report which proposes far-reaching political, social and economic reforms.

Highlights of the report include the return of a Prime Minister’s position, an increase in the number of MPs from the current 349 to 360 and the scrapping of the position of Woman Representative in the country’s 47 counties.

The proposed premier shall be appointed by the President from the party or coalition of parties registering a majority in the National Assembly.

The report also proposes an expanded executive where more communities shall get a chance to play a role in governance.

Also, the document attempts to provide a cure to the jinxed gender rule by proposing election of a woman senator in every county, effectively scrapping the position of nominated senators majority of whom have been women. This would raise the number of senators to 94.

And in a move that is likely to trigger resentment, the report proposes additional MPs to the National Assembly by creating mixed member constituencies that will be represented by more than one legislator in a bid to meet the gender parity rule.

While handing over the report yesterday,  members of the BBI taskforce said it contained the collective view of Kenyans gathered in the past one year.

“The steering committee humbly submits this report, as per its mandate, to the government in order that the Kenyan people can see reflected back at them their stories, desires and frustrations turned into instruments of change,”  said the tasksforce.

Changes in the Executive, including the establishment of a premier’s position, are intended to address the cycle of violence that characterises the country’s general elections.

Competitive politics

President Kenyatta alluded to this during his Mashujaa Day speech at the Gusii stadium on Tuesday when he stated: “The question at hand and one requiring a constitutional consensus is, therefore, this: How do we resolve the winner-take-all situation within a context of competitive politics as required by democratic practice?

And how do we ensure we fulfil our democratic credentials without ripping apart the diversity of our nation-state? This question of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ must come to an end.”

While receiving the report from the deputy chairman of the task force, Prof Adams Oloo, President Kenyatta said the document is “holistic and will help address constitutional and non-constitutional issues ailing the country since independence”.

“This document does not belong, first and foremost, to me and Raila. It belongs to you,” the President said as he urged Kenyans to read and understand the report when it is unveiled at the Bomas of Kenya on Monday.

He said the report has a myriad recommendations that, if adopted either through a referendum or Parliament, would enhance inclusivity and national unity.

“This document is not about this individual presidency and that individual premiership. What we are looking for is a document for prosperity,” he said.

To be established under the proposed dispensation are the positions of two deputy premiers and Leader of Official Opposition.

The report also proposes increased cash to the counties, creates a special status for the capital city with some of the critical functions being managed by the national government and increases women’s representation.

The report further creates a Ward Development Fund and allocates it 30 per cent of the total revenue set aside for development, bars civil servants from doubling in business, strengthens the fight against corruption and pushes for implementation of previous reports by task forces and land related commissions.

It also proposes to harmonise salaries of three arms of government, the Judiciary, Legislature and Executive, and state corporations and commissions.

This, according to the document, is mainly to end disputes that usually arise out of the winner-takes-it-all dispensation and instead creates room for inclusivity in the governance system.

Besides seeking to remedy the political malaise, the report also vouches for counties to be allocated 35 per cent of national revenue from the current 15 per cent. 

In order to revitalise the ailing economy, BBI calls for a 50-year growth plan with focus on industry and agriculture.

It calls for implementation of policies that would make it easier to start and operate businesses, including lowering taxation.

A visibly elated Raila, in an apparent reference to Deputy President William Ruto and his allies who are opposed to BBI, said some people have been speculating about the contents of the report and even opposing it yet they had not read it.

Receive the report

“Leo ni leo. This is the day that many people have been waiting for. Yesterday (Tuesday), I hesitated to say that we are going to receive the report today (Wednesday) but finally nyoka imetoka (the snake has come out). We now have a report that people can talk about,” he said in Kisii.

“We decided that we should take steps towards solving these problems not just for ourselves but with interests of this generation and the next.

We asked ourselves why we have a new Constitution... that time it was eight years old, yet there are still problems.

So there must be other issues that are making us not enjoy what the founding fathers of our nation wanted.

Somehow, we don’t have plenty within our borders 56 years after we got independence.”

And in what could be a pointer to the divergent views that the report is likely to elicit, Ruto gave the important event at Kisii State Lodge a wide berth and instead attended the burial of Huruma MCA Peter Chomba, who died of Covid-19 in Eldoret.

Ruto and his allies have in the past weeks been traversing parts of the country voicing opposition to the report.

The BBI project is the brainchild of the Handshake between President Kenyatta and Raila, which seeks to create a united and prosperous country where all communities feel represented in governance. 

The BBI taskforce looked at nine thematic areas including divisive elections, inclusivity, corruption, lack of national ethos, shared property, devolution and independence of the Judiciary which have been affecting the country since independence in 1963.

The BBI team has proposed retention of the current electoral structure, where the President will be directly elected by the people and must garner 50 per cent-plus one of the total votes cast, and 25 per cent in a majority of the country’s 47 counties.

It has also proposes retention of the present two-term limit for the President, who will chair the Cabinet comprising the deputy president, prime minister and cabinet ministers. Cabinet Secretaries will comprise sitting MPs and technocrats head-hunted from outside Parliament.

Under the proposed dispensation, the President will remain the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, while the Prime Minister will draw his powers from Parliament and supervise the execution of day-to-day government affairs.

“Within a set number of days following the summoning of Parliament after an election, the President shall appoint as prime minister an elected member of the National Assembly from a political party having a majority of members in the National Assembly or, if no political party has a majority, one who appears to have the support of a majority of MPs,” it recommends.

“The Prime Minister shall have supervision and execution of the day-to-day functions and affairs of the government.

The Prime Minister shall be the Leader of Government Business in the National Assembly.

On the President’s tasking, the Prime Minister will chair Cabinet sub-committees.

In the exercise of his authority, the Prime Minister shall perform or cause to be performed any matter or matters which the President directs to be done.”

While the National Assembly will have 360 members based on proportional representation of votes attained at each county level, the Senate shall have 94 members.

And both Houses will not have additional special interest nominated seats like in the current situation.

All the current 290 constituencies would be retained as well as the 47 counties.

However, members representing individual constituencies in the National Assembly would be based on a county party list presented to the elections body prior to election date.

In a boost for gender parity, the report proposes that a governor and his deputy must be of opposite gender.

“The governor will run on a sole ticket without a running mate and will appoint a deputy on election from the opposite gender,” the report recommends.

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