Senator backs BBI plan to boost oversight in devolved units

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019 00:00 |
Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi at a past event. Senate Roads committee wants defective ferries grounded until funds are available to procure new ones. Photo/PD/FILE

Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi has endorsed recommendations by the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report to have oversight mechanisms in counties reinforced, by among other things strengthening County Assemblies to ensure they independently play their roles.

He said supervision of county spending, investment and employment has been failing at multiple levels in counties leading to massive theft and wastage,  because regional assemblies are not in a position do enough to protect devolution.

Wamatangi, who is a member of the Senate Public Accounts and Investments Committee, said lack of financial autonomy whereby  County Assemblies depend on the Executive for their pay and allowances was greatly to blame for the compromised oversight  by ward reps.

To strengthen the oversight independence of County Assemblies, the report has recommended that the Houses gain autonomy by ensuring they get their funding directly from the Controller of Budget.

End culture

“Assemblies are critical in ensuring county affairs are run in an accountable and transparent manner.

This (amendment) will enable County Assemblies to have the necessary autonomy, and freewill to execute their legislative duties without any hindrances,” Wamatangi said yesterday.

Doubts have always been cast on the ability of assemblies to independently play their oversight roles, with majority of them already grappling with claims of “going to bed” with their respective governors.  

County Assemblies have accused governors of abusing the financial dependence on the Executive to suppress the oversight role by manipulating MCAs using money or intimidating nominated MCAs, most of whom get the jobs with the help of governors.

Other than delaying financial disbursements to the counties, governors allegedly “buy” loyalty from MCAs using handouts and bribes, sometimes through local and foreign treats where hefty allowances are paid or deals on awarding of tenders are sealed .  

For the County Assemblies to have teeth which can bite hard, Wamatangi said, there was need to end the culture whereby the Houses have to rely on governors to get their perks, which forces MCAs to turn a blind eye to the messes in counties.

“They need to have their independent way of receiving their allocation because what has been happening is that governors arm-twist the MCAs by denying or delaying the money as a way of fighting back when they have been pinned over accountability issues to ensure MCAs don’t do anything at all,” he said. 

Start projects

During the BBI hearing sessions, citizens said financial autonomy will ensure that transmission and management of Assembly budgets is insulated from arbitrary or politically-motivated interference by executives, who have been abusing the financial dependence by the Assemblies to kill oversight functions.

The team also recommended strengthening of the Office of the Auditor General, which should be devolved to oversee counties’ accounts and to report them in an accessible and straightforward way.

Further, projects initiated in the final year of an electoral cycle should receive extra scrutiny from the Controller of Budget, the County Assembly, the Senate, and all oversight authorities.

Wamatangi said governors who fear losing in a re-election loot by starting new projects to facilitate theft. 

The senator sponsored the Assumption of Office of the Governor Act which compels all governors to be preparing lists of all assets and liabilities in their respective counties, at least 90 days to the elections.

The Assumption of the Office of Governor committee should then authenticate the lists to ensure all assets and bills are documented, and this, the senator said, will make it impossible to loot anything since properties will be in the hands of the committee, and after the election, the new governor will find them intact. 

Safeguard resources

“It will be therefore clear what properties the incoming governor will find, and when leaving office or during an electioneering period, he will also have to give a list and this will ensure that all assets in a county will not fraudulently change hands like it was witnessed in 2013,” said Wamatangi.

He said counties will only be allowed to undertake ongoing projects and to run recurrent expenditure to ensure activities keep running during the period.

 The move, he added, was aimed at safeguarding public resources from possible plundering by county officials and use by governors for campaigns through populist projects.

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