Team calls for measures to safeguard devolution gains

Friday, November 29th, 2019 00:00 |
BBI taskforce chairman Yusuf Haji addresses delegates during the launch of their report at Bomas of Kenya on Wednesday. Photo/PD/SAMUEL KARIUKI

Although devolution has been a success so far, it is facing a myriad of challenges that, if not addressed, might make it politically and economically unsustainable in the long run,the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report shows.

Citing corruption, tribalism, nepotism, impunity and disregard of the rule of law by governors and county Executives, the BBI report calls for urgent measures to safeguard devolution which it says is very popular among Kenyans. 

“Devolution has largely been a success. However, it is still frustrated by serious challenges that if unaddressed, will raise questions about its political and economic sustainability,” says the report.

Although the document, launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga at the Bomas of Kenya on Wednesday calls for the retention of all the 47 counties, it has proposed Nairobi to be given special status.

Fate of Nairobi

If the report is adopted, the National government will have a bigger say in the running of affairs in the capital particularly provision of services. 

Noting that Nairobi is the capital, regional business and diplomatic hub, BBI argues that the National government should be allowed to run its affairs without interfering with the rights and representation of citizens at parliamentary and ward level.

In listening to views on resource sharing, and the provision of services, we have come to the conclusion that Nairobi, by virtue of being the national capital and an extraterritorial seat of the United Nations, which has the city as its third global headquarters, is dissimilar to other counties, it says. 

The Kenyan people look to the capital as the seat of all arms of Government and as a critical location for their civic participation in national life, it adds. 

The report adds that the Commission of Revenue Allocation would struggle to find a formula that takes into account the special status of Nairobi and the demand for services that come with it.

It cites the March 26, 1975 agreement between Kenya and the United Nations regarding the headquarters of the UN Environment Programme in Nairobi which binds the government to provide free-flowing services.

According to the BBI report, the Kenyan government is bound to do specific things that touch on the quality of environment, infrastructure, amenities, public services, and accessibility of the headquarters. 

“To demonstrate the far-reaching implications of the agreement, consider its agreement that ‘the headquarters seat shall be supplied with the necessary services including without limitation by reason of this enumeration, electricity, water, sewerage, gas, post, telephone, telegraph, local transportation, drainage, collection of refuse and fire protection…” the report states.

At the same time, the BBI has proposed the creation of regional assemblies to boost representation and legislation function while leaving the 47 counties to be the focus of development.  

The report says Kenyans overwhelmingly told the Taskforce they want their counties to remain as they are but with services further decentralised to the ward level and that each ward should benefit by receiving at least 30 per cent of the development fund in each five-year term.

Better services

“Kenyans want far better service delivery and for development projects to receive enough oversight to prevent wastage and corruption,” says the report by the  Taskforce co-chaired by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji and Busia Senator Amos Wako.

The team visited all the 47 counties and received views from 400 elected leaders (past and present) and also relied upon views from more than 7,000 ordinary citizens to compile its report. 

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