With the General Election 23 days away, the Council of Governors (CoG) is already preparing for the next five years of devolution.
The CoG, which is chaired by Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok, marked off the first item on what is promising to be a busy season, with successful governorship candidates and their running mates pencilled for an induction conference slated for Mombasa between September 4 and 7, barely a month after the August 8 polls.
This might have been informed by the fact that six current governors still do not know their fate after failing to get the tickets of their sponsoring parties.
They are Mr Cleophas Lagat (Nandi), Mr Benjamin Cheboi (Baringo), Mr Joseph Ndathi (Kirinyaga), Mr William Kabogo (Kiambu), Mr Jack Ranguma (Kisumu) and Mr John Mruttu (Taita-Taveta).
In a statement to newsrooms Sunday, the council’s director of communications, Mr Andrew Teyie, said the summit seeks to align the visions of the governors who will be elected to the spirit and principles of devolution.
Mr Teyie said the new governors and their deputies will be taken through the challenges experienced by the pioneer county governments, whose term ends with this election, and possible remedies.
The meeting will also seek consultative interventions to guarantee and secure the place of devolution in Kenya.
“In order to address this at the onset, the induction will inform, share experiences and create a working rapport between the new governors and deputy governors, the national government, donors and the private sector,” the statement read.
The summit will also serve to bring the new county officers up to speed on a whole range of policies and legislation that apply to their roles and provide them with a strong understanding of the dynamics in the devolved system of governance, scouring through the structures within the county governments.
It will also take them through intergovernmental relations structures and practice; development planning and service delivery; legal and policy framework for accountability and oversight; and leadership and integrity.
“The next team of county leaders has a duty to ensure that the gains made between 2013 and 2017 are safeguarded and that the momentum for the successful implementation of the devolved system of governance continues,” Mr Teyie added.
Interestingly, on July 3, Devolution Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri gazetted guidelines on assumption of office by governors who will be elected as well as an audit of county assets and liabilities.
In the Framework for the Assumption of the Office of Governor, Mr Kiunjuri has directed that every county sets up a committee to be charged with facilitating handover and compiling a summary of assets held by the county government, among other functions.
The document also directs that the first meeting of the committee be held “not more than 30 calendar days” before the date of the election while its term of office will lapse 30 days after the swearing-in of the governor.
At the same time, the governors have launched a fresh attack on the Senate, with the war between the two appearing not to be ending any time soon.
The county bosses have engaged senators — who play an oversight role on the use of county resources — in a tug of war over summonses to appear before them, with Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya snubbing the committee.
The CoG has cast aspersions on the extent of the powers bestowed upon the Senate Committee on Finance, saying the powers of the Senate, when properly exercised, are restricted to national revenue allocated to the counties and not over locally generated revenue, loans and grants.
“Moreover, in view of the provisions of Article 6 (2) and 189 of the Constitution, the Senate should not use its powers granted by Article 96 (3) of the Constitution to micromanage the counties,” the statement read.
It added that summons should only be issued “in instances where county officials have declined to honour invitations from the Senate”.
Citing a judgment by Justice George Odunga of the High Court in a 2015 case pitting Mr Oparanya and Council of Governors against the Senate and Director of Public Prosecutions, the CoG accused the House of misusing and abusing its powers and also usurping the powers of the county assembly.
While it agrees that the Senate, under Article 125 of the Constitution, can summon governors to appear before it, the CoG says the power of the Senate must be exercised in conformity with the other clauses of the Constitution and law and in good faith.
It said senators should only take up the issues with the Auditor-General’s report after the county assembly has considered them.
It said the Constitution requires the High Court to interpret the supreme law to promote good governance and accountability.
They also reiterated the position of the High Court that county accounting officers should be the first point of contact on public finance management matters.
“There is no magic in dragging governors before the Senate simply because it is fashionable to do so,” the governors said.