County CEOs get enhanced powers in policy changes
The National Government has created powerful positions of County Commissioner in radical reform of the provincial administration.
As far as the National Government is concerned, the County Commissioners with enhanced powers will be the “chief executive officers” of their counties, appointed by the President and answerable to him.
Their job will be to oversee the operations of the National Government at the county level.
“As the President’s direct appointee, the power of the office must not only be projected and felt through the office of the County Commissioner, it must be seen in the County Commissioner. Nobody in the county should have a second doubt as to who the Presidency’s representative and head of government at the county level is,” says the policy document which outlines these radical proposals.
The position of Regional Commissioner, which replaced the Provincial Commissioner, has been scrapped and the holders recalled to the central government for deployment.
The new policy is among far reaching changes that the President will unveil on Thursday.
Constitutionally, the National Government runs the country and is given the responsibility to reform the provincial administration to suit the devolved system.
It is likely that it will be argued that the provincial administration is necessary in some form to keep the country together and ensure security.
But the whole system is unpopular and has in the past been used to rig elections and oppress the people.
On Wednesday, Public Service Commission chairperson Margaret Kobia said the policy was aimed at improving efficiency and effective service delivery. “We are transforming the public sector; we are providing a favourable environment for officers to execute their duties,” she said.
The new structure was prepared by Ms Kobia’s team in consultations with the ministries in charge of devolution and security.
“If the Regional Commissioners have to be retained, they should be deployed to the headquarters in Nairobi to serve as regional desk officers responsible for a cluster of counties,” the policy document says.
Although County Commissioners will be representatives of the National Government, their influential position in counties is likely to put them in competition with governors. This was the case when governors were involved in turf wars with regional commissioners soon after the March 4 General Election as they fought for control of operations, office space and even accommodation.
According to the policy, governors who are not willing to work with a particular county commissioner will have to get the greenlight from the electorate before such an official can be moved.
They will, however, have no authority over the County Commissioner, since the roles of the two are well laid out.
“The powers of the governors are derived from the Constitution and second from the people who elect them. On the other hand, County Commissioners exercise delegated executive powers and do not enjoy direct powers from the people, the implication of this power structure is that where a governor feels uncomfortable working with a County Commissioner, he can directly appeal to the masses and demand the removal or transfer of a County Commissioner,” reads the document.
However, the County Commissioner will be required to consult, collaborate and cooperate with governors but governors will not prevail on the President to transfer County Commissioners.
“Where both levels of government are expected to perform a particular function, the County Commissioner as the overall head of the National Government at the county level will be expected to collegially and mutually agree with the governor on the expected performance standards of a shared function,” the document says.