Future of devolution is in hands of Kenyan people
A while back, I read in bemusement, a story in a newspaper about how Members of the County Assembly of Meru spent millions of taxpayers' money to travel to Rwanda for a benchmarking on dairy farming only to discover that the Rwandese had actually copied their dairy farming model from farmers in Kenya.
If not exchanging blows and kicks on the floor of the House, MCAs would be hopping into the next plane for extravagant trips overseas for benchmarking with nothing to show in the end.
It was so grave, some European countries actually barred these politicians from travelling there.
Kenya’s 2010 Constitution was a game changer when it provided for devolution, an antidote to non-inclusive systems of governance by post-independent governments.
Devolution was intended to transfer power from the centre to local governments in order to empower citizens, promote development at the grassroots and enhance participation of Wanjiku in management of her own affairs.
Corrupt MCAs, however, have been a stumbling block to the success of devolution. In “The tyranny of Kenya’s MCAs” published by the Institute for Security Studies, “MCAs pose the biggest threat to Kenya’s ‘noble’ constitutional devolution project, and intervention is urgently required to ensure that the popular will of the people – devolution – is not subverted to serve the interests of a few political elites.”
According to an audit report for the year ended June 2020 by the office of the Auditor General, MCAs squandered over Sh400 million in fictitious workshops and travels. The Nairobi City County Assembly for instance paid MCAs Sh75.7 million as sitting allowances but did not provide attendance reports including biometric data on the MCAs as well as the dates the committee meetings were held. In Elgeyo Marakwet, the auditor questioned Sh21 million spent on foreign travel and subsistence allowances including payment of Sh9 million to members.
In Murang’a, MCAs spent Sh35 million on foreign travel, which included subsistence allowance claims totalling Sh7.8 million paid to 20 MCAs and members of staff. The huge sums of money splurged by these politicians could be used for a bigger cause. The money could be used to put up hospitals and schools, drill boreholes or provide bursaries to needy students.
In the 2017 election, two-thirds of members of the county assemblies and half the governors were sent home by the voters and the same will happen tomorrow when Kenyans head to the polls.
A 2021 report by Transparency International titled: “My Leader, My Choice: Citizens’ Perception of Ethical Leadership in Kenya,” revealed that the majority of respondents identified qualities of good and ethical leadership as a yardstick to elect one to a public office. Some 82 per cent of the respondents indicated that they were either ‘Very Unlikely’ or ‘Unlikely’ to vote for candidates with a history of corruption. Some 75 per cent, believed that a person convicted, accused or under investigation for graft should not be allowed to contest for a leadership position.
Speaking at a public lecture organized by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission at Strathmore University to commemorate the African Anti-Corruption Day on July 12, Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya Rev Jackson Ole Sapit said citizens were aware that integrity was critical in shaping the national agenda.
“Let us be observant and listen to our leaders as they present their manifestos. Judge them on the past offices they held, past contribution to society, how they delivered, have they inspired hope, are they associated with any form of corruption?” he asked.
The National Treasury has allocated a whopping Sh370 billion to county governments for the financial year 2022/2023. This money, if well utilised, will positively transform the way Wanjiku lives. But this will be a pipe dream if she elects corrupt MCAs.
What the citizens need at the County level are selfless leaders who see the county as bigger than their egos, leaders who genuinely have the interests of the electorate at heart.
As we head to the polls, ask yourself, what is it that your MCA has done for you to merit another term. Like Dwight Eisenhower told the American people, “ The future of this republic is in the hands of the American voter. We could as well as posit that the future of devolution and good governance is in the hands of the Kenyan voter.”
—Frankline Sewe is social media strategist based in Nairobi