The national government is wooing members of county assemblies as it shifts gears in an effort to tame the governors.
The County Assembly Forum (CAF) is preparing to hold a meeting in Nairobi where President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to announce goodies for the more than 2,000 ward representatives.
The meeting, whose date is yet to be determined, will follow a visit by the forum’s executive committee members to State House last week.
“That was a good-intentioned visit to thank the President for gracing our retreat in Mombasa. As the executive committee of the CAF, we had been mandated by our members in Mombasa to make a follow-up on his pledges of a car grant and mortgage,” Bogichora County Ward Representative Beauttah Omanga told the Sunday Nation.
The meeting at State House last week preceded the governors’ forum, also held in Mombasa, to which the national government gave a wide berth.
At the State House meeting, President Uhuru Kenyatta and CAF executive members are said to have negotiated for money to buy cars.
The MCAs are demanding Sh2 million car grants which the President reportedly warned was a massive allocation that could raise public anger given that he has been seeking to slash salaries and allowances. The President further informed the MCAs that the money had not been budgeted for.
“The President told us he will consult the Salaries and Remuneration Commission and inform us of the outcome at the next meeting in Nairobi,” Mr Omanga said.
But the President’s courting of the MCAs, while appearing to create a bridge between the national government and the governors, has not gone done well with the county bosses.
According to Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, the President’s meeting with MCAs is meant to undermine the county chiefs.
“There are indicators that the national government is using MCAs to fight governors so that we get pre-occupied with sideshows instead of implementing devolution. One would wonder why the President would want to meet the MCAs. It is in total disregard of the law,” Mr Ruto, the chairman of the Council of Governors, said.
But Mr Omanga said MCAs were out to act in the best interest of the people rather than be used as pawns.
“We are independent as MCAs. We will not be pocketed to do dirty work for any one. Unlike our predecessors, the councillors, MCAs are not people to be manipulated,” the Bogichora ward representative said.
President Kenyatta wants to woo the MCAs who he believes have the power to tilt the balance in an election and could even send the governors home. The President is also said to be wary of a possible plan by the governors to front one of their own to run against him in the 2017 General Election and wants to trim their influence.
The accusations come as governors said they will soon move to the Supreme Court to compel the national government to respect the Constitution and devolve all functions as outlined in the supreme law.
The governors have warned they will push for a national referendum to have more resources be devolved to the counties.
The reaction comes after it emerged that State House had distanced itself from the planning of the governors’ conference early last month.
In a correspondence between the Council of Governors and State House seen by Sunday Nation, the latter said it would not participate in the engagement.
“Regrettably, we could not participate in the meeting of March, 4 because your letter reached my office on March, 11, a week later. I will, however, inform the President about the conference and in particular the proposal to have him officially open it,” a letter from Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua reads. Instead, State House nominated two senior officers to follow up on the conference.
“I have nominated Hon Mohamed Abdikadir, Senior Advisor, Legislative and Constitutional Affairs and Dr Mbui Wagacha, Economic Advisor, both in the Executive Office of the President to, as necessary, follow up on the conference,” part of the letter from Kinyua reads. The letter was copied to Deputy President William Ruto.
Governor Ruto accused both President Kenyatta and his deputy of plotting to kill devolution. He said the governors had read mischief in the absence of President Kenyatta at the opening of the conference and that he was not committed to the event from the word go, the meeting with MCAs notwithstanding.
Mr Ruto accused the DP of traversing the country inciting the public to have total disregard of devolution. He said there were even plans to throw him out as Council of Governors chairman as a way of killing devolution and scuttling their efforts to push for more resources.
“I will not be cowed into silence; I will soldier on and will fight for the survival of devolution tooth and nail,” Ruto told the Sunday Nation.
He noted that the President and his deputy are slowly but steadily using different avenues to confront governors.
“They are now using MCAs, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and even the Auditor General to micro-manage counties,” said Mr Ruto. He added the governors will call for a referendum to rally Kenyans to making the national government devolve more funds to the counties.
“It is sad that everywhere the Deputy President goes, he is busy talking ill about governors and dismissing them for their incompetence when he is supposed to oversee matters of the national government,” Ruto said.
According to the governors, the recent performance by the Cabinet secretaries to give their scorecards was a publicity gimmick to hoodwink the public that the government it is working when in essence it is not.
“Why did it have to come now? Their one year in office ends April 29. They could have waited until then before trying to confuse the public at a time when governors want to literally give their score cards,” he said.
He dismissed contentions by President Kenyatta that over 32 per cent of national resources have been devolved, saying that is a warped calculation based on the 2010/11 revenues that doesn’t make sense.
President Kenyatta accused governors of misusing resources on their recent conference that came barely two weeks after the MCAs held a similar meeting.
The governors are also reeling from the shock of losing the privilege of flying small national flags on their cars after the National Assembly passed a Bill they believe was orchestrated by the national government.-nation.co.ke