Uhuru and Raila, who have previously expressed divergent opinions on many public issues, said for devolution to succeed, county assemblies need to play their oversight roles and not engage in blackmail. PHOTO:COURTESY
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga were yesterday united in condemning pilferage in counties.
In a rare show of unity, Uhuru and Raila said although Kenyans had begun to see the fruits of devolution, there was still wastage in the devolved units that needed to be checked.
The leaders used the burial of Nyeri Governor Nderitu Gachagua to point out that antagonism between county executives and county assemblies had undermined devolution. The leaders, who attended the burial service at Gachagua’s rural home in Hiriga, Mathira West sub-county, regretted that despite this being the pioneer batch of governors, the MCAs were using oversight powers vested on them wrongly.
Describing Gachagua as a devout champion of devolution, Uhuru and Raila enumerated instances where public money has been used imprudently while public squabbles have seen operations in counties grind to a halt.
Uhuru and Raila, who have previously expressed divergent opinions on many public issues, said for devolution to succeed, county assemblies need to play their oversight roles and not engage in blackmail.
And it was a great moment that did not escape President Kenyatta, who said: “Gachagua has made me agree with Raila today. County governments should know they are using public money and should not quarrel over it. The money must not be wasted,” said Uhuru.
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He added: “I am saddened that money is there but it cannot reach Kenyans because of differences among leaders and other wastages.”
The President, who appeared to read the riot act to MCAs most of whom were conspicuously missing from the burial, accused the ward representatives of attempts to mutilate the governors’ manifestos by dictating how projects should be implemented and how tenders should be issued.
“Stop early campaigns. Let those elected complete their terms and fulfil their manifestos. Your job is oversight, not to change budget among other things,” he said.
Raila was more specific, praising Gachagua and Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibawana, who was present, for remaining steadfast in guarding devolution by refusing to be blackmailed by members of their county assemblies.
“The county assemblies should know that their role is to provide oversight not to arm-twist governors. Gachagua and Kibwana can be described as the true disciples of devolution for refusing to be blackmailed by MCAs,” said Raila.
He said wastage in counties had seen public money, which would have uplifted the lives of Kenyans, lost “in the most horrendous ways”.
“Some of these MCAs are just wasting public money. You have heard them going for what they call bench-marking trips in foreign countries. This is a clear avenue for misusing public money,” Raila said.
Comments by the President and other leaders were triggered by newly sworn-in Nyeri Governor, Samuel Wamathai, who complained the county was still grounded because MCAs declined to pass this year’s supplementary budget.
Wamathai said most of the programmes to be affected by the delay in passing the budget are for the elderly, youth and women.
“Where do you want our elderly, our youth and women to get assistance from? Give Nyeri people what they deserve,” said Wamathai.
He called on the MCAs to honour Gachagua and the people of Nyeri by passing the budget. Odinga faulted MCAs, whom he said had stopped playing their role of oversight and instead became executors.
The former premier hailed Gachagua for standing with the people of Nyeri and refusing to be manipulated.
Odinga noted that the first batch of governors were the pioneers of devolution, but warned that the MCAs, whom he termed as ignorant of the law, were becoming an impediment to devolution.
“Their role is oversight and oversight is not execution. These MCAs do not know that,” said Odinga.
Odinga, who was warmly received by those gathered at the venue where he is perceived to enjoy little support, tore into MCAs across the country whom he said, waste county resources on benchmarking and bonding trips.
Other leaders who elicited cheers when they were introduced where Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, Mombasa’s Ali Hassan Joho and Nairobi senator Mike Sonko.
Devolution Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, who together with Gachagua formed Grand National Union (GNU), which competed against Kenyatta’s TNA in the 2013 elections, said the fallen governor was always willing to sit and iron out issues with the MCAs.
“He used to call me whether abroad for treatment or within the country and he used to tell me he was always ready to meet the MCAs and solve the issues they had,” said Kiunjuri.
During the funeral, leaders mainly avoided confrontational politics, and generally concentrated on hailing the fallen governor for his lifetime achievements.
The event was led by PCEA Moderator Julius Mwamba and attracted thousands of people who followed the proceedings through screens mounted on mega tents at the governor’ expansive home.
Meru Governor Peter Munya hailed Gachagua as a courageous and committed man who was always eager to ensure devolution became a success.