New term, same problems as differences emerge between county chiefs and National Government
Council of Governors accuses Devolution CS of assigning himself powers over them in contravention of gazetted guidelines governing assumption of office of governor.
Swearing in of governors started last Thursday in Machakos and Mandera counties where governors Alfred Mutua and Ali Roba were sworn in respectively
As governors-elect take over office, old rifts between the National Government and the Council of Governors (CoG) that characterised devolution’s first five years are once again playing out in the open.
CoG Chairman and Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok has asked the National Government to steer clear of the ongoing countrywide Assumption of Office of Governor ceremonies, saying it has no role to play in the swearing-in of county chiefs.
Although the process is guided by Gazette Notice 6409 dated July 3, 2017, Devolution and Planning Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri has issued fresh guidelines and gazetted specific dates on which each governor-elect is to be sworn in.
“The Judiciary has provided a list of judges and magistrates assigned to preside over the swearing in of the Governors-elect in each county,” said Kiunjuri.
But according to Nanok, the Devolution ministry should respect and operate within the specifics of the Gazette Notice, which established a committee to, among others, facilitate the handing over process by an outgoing governor to the governor-elect.
By yesterday, eight governors — Martin Wambora (Embu), Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Mwangi Wa Iria (Muranga), Paul Chepkwony (Kericho), Joseph ole Lenku (Kajiado), Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu), Onesmus Njuki (Tharaka/Nithi), Ali Roba (Mandera), Cyprian Awiti (Homa Bay), Kiraitu Murungi (Meru) and John Nyangarama (Nyamira) — had been sworn in.
Today, Ferdinand Waitutu (Kiambu) and Nanok (Turkana) will be sworn into office. Thirty one others will take their oath of office on Monday. The other three will be sworn in on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Kenya’s youngest governor, Nandi’s Stephen Sang, who was to be the last to be sworn in on Thursday, will take his oath of office on Monday.
Kiunjuri also found himself on the receiving end of the CoG when he appeared to be dictating how the swearing in ceremonies, spearheaded by outgoing county chief of staffs, will be done.
Nanok could hear none of it, saying the Assumption of Office of the Governor is the responsibility of the committee, which the ministry is only a member and therefore has no powers to lead it.
“We are gravely concerned about the conduct of the ministry with respect to this exercise. We are perturbed by the statement issued by Kiunjuri,” said Nanok.
The CoG chairman was particularly irked by Kiunjuri’s directive giving the county bosses a ‘free hand’ budget for the process fronted by the ministry and reiterated that counties are independent entities and not subordinate to the National Government.
“The ministry must recognise that county governments have full capacity to run their own affairs. The constitution is unequivocal on the distinctness of the county governments and must at all times be protected,” said the CoG chair. “Attempts to undermine this authority is a blatant encroachment to the sovereign power of the people of Kenya.”
Kiunjuri hit back promptly, saying he has not overstepped his mandate.
“Just for clarity, the State Department of Devolution gives guidelines on the transition process in counties,” said the CS, who has been accused of encouraging wasteful spending of public funds to organise the events.
He said the budgets for the ceremonies are county affairs. “It would be prudent to just have simple ceremonies without wastage of public resources, those funds are needed elsewhere,” said the CS.
In 2013, the defunct Transition Authority (TA) set a ceiling of Sh2 million per county on the swearing in ceremonies.
“Governors must exercise frugal use of public funds. It’s a one off event whose budget is controlled by the county assemblies and not the Devolution Ministry based on the guidelines set in 2013,” TA’s former chairman Kinuthia Wamwangi told Saturday Standard.
Wamwangi said the budget can go up by 10 per cent owing to the high cost of living and increased population.
“It can go up to Sh5 million for Nairobi and Sh3 million for some counties. If more is spent, it will amount to a rip-off,” he said.
In this light, governor-elect Anyang Nyongo (Kisumu) has rejected the Sh20 million budget for his swearing in and reduced it to Sh500,000 while Mike Sonko (Nairobi) turned down the Sh25 million and directed that it be used to offset staff salary arrears.
Vihiga’s Wilberforce Otichilo has also questioned the huge budget for the ceremony, saying it is not prudent use of funds.