Revealed: Why furious Uhuru struck Sonko hard

Thursday, February 27th, 2020 08:00 | By
Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa interacts with a resident at a West Pokot hospital, yesterday. Photo/PD/JIMMY GITAKA

Emeka-Mayaka Gekara and David Musundi

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko’s recent decision to sack acting County Secretary Leboo ole Morintat and replace him with a close ally was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

The governor, who is barred from accessing his office due to a pending corruption case, was seen as seeking to stamp his authority at City Hall by packing the place with loyalists.

 A source privy to events leading to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s decision to have the National Government take over control of key City Hall functions, said the Head of State was furious that the governor’s move could destabilise the city county and hinder service delivery. 

 “Without a substantive deputy who could supervise the Cabinet it means the county was exposed.

The only official remaining to oversee the county bureaucracy was the County Secretary. 

His removal and replacement with a person in acting capacity meant that Nairobi was left with no government,” said the State House insider.

Morintat was replaced by Justus Kadhenge in acting capacity awaiting vetting and approval by the County Assembly.

Dissolve county

According to the source who requested to speak on condition of anonymity, one of the President’s advisors had broached the idea of dissolving the county but it was resolved the process was long and could be challenged in court.

“The end game of the President’s move is to hand over the management of the City County to the Nairobi Regeneration Team which he appointed in 2018. It is the President’s thinking that Governor Sonko is out of his depth,” said the source.

 Invoking Article 187 of the Constitution, the National Government agreed with the Nairobi County government to take over key functions including health, transport, planning and development and public works.

The move was also seen as calculated to wrest the county from the governor who is facing a possible impeachment that could further deepen the management crisis at the county which manages country’s capital.

The Nairobi regeneration team was tasked to ensure delivery of key services in the city, ranging from garbage collection, clean-up of Nairobi River to launching a mortgage company. The team is co-chaired by Sonko and Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala

“The Cabinet Secretaries and the Principal Secretaries who are part of the team will tender their resignation to President Kenyatta while county executives will hand theirs to Governor Mike Sonko if they fail to deliver,” said the President when unveiling the team.

Members of the team include Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Transport, Health, Devolution Cabinet Secretaries, the Nairobi Deputy Governor, County Secretary and professionals.

Yesterday, Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa denied claims the National Government had dissolved Nairobi County Government.

Fall in revenue

Wamalwa argued that the deal between the National government and the county government to transfer some functions to the former was constitutional. 

He said the County government was “intact” and that only four functions had been transferred to the national level after agreement between the two governments.

“Even as this agreement comes into effect, the other functions and roles of the County Government of Nairobi including legislation on matters that concern Nairobi will remain with the elected leaders of the County Assembly,’’ said Wamalwa.

The CS said a technical team had been formed to create structures for the city’s management. He said the transferred roles will be returned to the devolved unit once it demonstrates that it had capacity to execute them.

He explained that the Kenya Revenue Authority will be the principal collector of taxes to address a drastic fall in revenue which had caused a sharp decline in service delivery.

According to the CS, who was speaking in Kitale yesterday, those entrusted with management of the county will be required to prepare a report for Parliament and the County Assembly. 

On funding, the CS said this will be done through a County Revenue Fund determined by the National Government in consultation with the County Government every financial year.

The minister indicated that county employees will be retained but work alongside their counterparts in the national government on the transferred responsibilities.

“The agreement envisaged the secondment of all the relevant county government employees employed under the transferred functions to the National Government,’’ he said, adding that the agreement gazetted, and will be subjected to public debate.

 “The agreement has been gazetted and it is our hope that public participation on the agreement will bring desirable changes,’’ he said.

Experts and leaders interviewed expressed varied opinions on the deal. 

Machakos Governor Afred Mutua said Sonko’s predicament was  “self-inflicted”.  

“The takeover was a culmination of many gaps. He doesn’t have a substantive deputy to chair and guide Cabinet. He also fired the County Secretary rendering Nairobi without a government,” he said.

 But lawyer Oliver Kipchumba described the deal as “null and void” unless there was public participation.

“The governor’s powers are donated to him by the people. Sonko cannot unilaterally walk and surrender the county to Uhuru,” he said.

The national government takeover of Nairobi city county key functions was the subject of debate in the Senate which dedicated its afternoon to discuss the matter.

The Building Bridges Initiative report that is being debated across the country, recommends that Nairobi be accorded a special status by virtue of being the national capital and hosting several United Nations offices and other diplomatic missions.

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