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BBI team roots for law change to scrap counties, create 14 regions

By Seth Onyango
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
Former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga. Photo/Courtesy

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) taskforce has made far-reaching recommendations to abolish the 47 county governments and replace them with 14 regional governments.  

A draft proposal of the BBI report seen by People Daily proposes drastic changes to the devolved units to make them more responsive to the needs of Kenyans.

The taskforce recommends the repeal of the County Governments Act 2012 and replace it with the Devolved Governments Act through a referendum which will also create the regional governments as was envisioned in the Bomas Draft.

The move, the team proposes, should pave the way for introduction of a regional premier, deputy regional premier or their equivalent to oversee the new system.

Earlier this year,  former Prime Minister Raila Odinga called for the creation of a three-tier system of governance, with the introduction of regional governments.

He described some counties under the current devolution system as uncompetitive due to population size and other related factors. 

Skewed appointments

Raila noted that regional governments would be more viable economically.

“One of the facts we’re dealing with but hardly acknowledge is that a number of our counties as they are today are too tiny to compete and to marshal internal and external resources for development,” he said.

The BBI draft report also proposes the set-up of Regional Public Service Boards (RBSB) as the panacea for skewed appointments in counties, that have been marred by claims of nepotism, tribalism and cronyism. The taskforce exudes confidence the proposed boards will “reduce corruption and nepotism in employment in county public service by abolishing County Public Service Boards and creating Regional Public Service Boards”. 

Further, the taskforce recommends the creation of the position of County Police Chief, who will be elected within the framework of counties.

Revenue sharing

And in what could be a big win for devolution, the team proposes that nearly 50 per cent of national revenue be allocated to devolved units. 

“Allocate 45 per cent of the national revenue to devolved governments (13.5 per cent to regional governments and 26.5 per cent to county governments),”  draft report reads in part.

Last month, the Council of Governors (CoG) proposed that the equitable share of the revenue raised nationally for County Governments not be less than 45 per cent of the previous year’s revenue collected by the National Government and calculated on the basis of declared exchequer accounts. 

It further proposed that each county to provide a minimum of 1.5 per cent of its development budget to the economic blocs and 0.5 per cent to the Council of Governors. 

The BBI taskforce regretted that devolution of various functions was not matched with commensurate resources.

On policing, the team proposes that regions have own command structures for rapid deployment of forces.

At the height of terrorist attacks in Kenya, governors demanded greater role in maintaining security.

This would give them powers to deploy police on the ground without first seeking permission from the force’s central command in Nairobi. Governors, especially in Northeastern region, have complained the slow response from police in case of security threats.

The police service currently operates under a single command chain headed by the Inspector General of Police. 

Governor’s role in maintaining security is limited to chairing the county policing authority, a local body which monitors security threats but has no direct powers to deploy forces.

On county legislative process, the BBI taskforce proposes the creation of regional assemblies comprising all members of county assemblies in each region.

It also prescribes clear academic, professional and ethical qualifications for the members so as to infuse capacity to legislate and oversight.

Additionally, it recommends creation of regional Ombudsman to handle issues affecting counties.

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