Urbanites need to own urban politics

Posted by on 5th October 2015

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According to the recent Ipos-Synovate study, Kenyans in rural areas are more aware of their legislators and also engage them more than those living in urban areas. This finding goes to show that urban dwellers are disinterested in their local politics, a surprising fact given the ever increasing rural to urban migration.

Article 1 of the constitution vests the sovereign power to the people of Kenya and therefore a disinterested citizenry gives out their power. This is unfortunate considering that most urban dwellers are considered more literate and shapers of public opinion.

The five largest cities and towns of Kenya: Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and Eldoret have a combined total of 47 constituencies and an approximate population of 8 million and are the major socio-economic hubs of the country. This economic power, that is partly determined and maintained by elected leaders through policy formulation and implementation needs to give urbanites more reason to engage leaders, and inform them on their priorities.

The study stated that the proportion of knowledge about MPs is higher in western Kenya, eastern Kenya, central Kenya, northeastern Kenya and Nyanza at between 89 and 81 per cent, against 59 per cent in Nairobi.

Voting in one’s rural constituency is the leading reason for non-participation in urban politics. Kenyans need to recognize that it is more helpful to vote where you live so that you can hold your leader to account when they fail. If urban areas become centres of leadership excellence by virtue of people therein being participative the change may also be embraced in rural areas.

Elected leaders who exercise our sovereignty in trust, have tremendous powers and responsibilities. To whom much is given, much is expected and this informs the reason why the public must keep their leaders on toes so as to deliver.

Parliamentarians are expected to legislate, exercise oversight and represent public interests. In all these mandates there is room for people to influence through public participation. In a democracy like Kenya’s it is the people who take charge of their country’s destiny.

Disinterest in politics is what is affirming mediocre leadership in Kenya. Most Kenyan Parliamentarians are urban dwellers, thus Kenyans in urban areas have more opportunity to engage them to further their local and rural interests. Easier access to internet offers more avenue for urbanites to engage their leaders and they therefore have no excuse of being apathetic.

In most cases it is the urbanites who use the internet to register their discontent in matters of governance. But it would be better if they knew their elected leaders first and address them before whining via social media which most of the times is inconsequential.

It is time to rethink our politics. Knowing the legislator is the first step. In addition, our website has most of their contacts and you can seek them out to hear your voice and address your concerns on issues tabled in Parliament. Good governance starts with you!

Sobriety will end public servants strike

Posted by on 28th September 2015

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The four week long teachers’ strike ended in a stalemate as the Executive remained adamant that the 50-60 per cent pay increment teachers were demanding for could not be met. The strike had significantly affected learners in public schools more so those preparing for their final examinations – KCSE and KCPE. The Employment and Labour relations court stepped in and ordered teachers to suspend the strike and return to class as arbitration was pursued.

Though, this teachers strike has been the longest in Kenya’s history, it is just but one in a recent spate of industrial unrest that the civil service has faced. The health sector has been severely affected by strikes too. Doctors and nurses are likely to go on strike in October also over pay issues and Parliament’s refusal to take up their proposal on the re-structuring of the health sector.

Over the last 30 months, Kenyan doctors and nurses have been on sporadic strikes in various counties. In fact, presently the Kenya National Union of Nurses is in talks with the Nairobi County Government over the same. This April, anti-stock theft police officers were also allegedly on a go-slow protesting withheld operational allowances amounting to Ksh 4.5 million. The common thread at the center of most of the strikes has included: poor pay, discrimination, salary delays and poor working conditions.

In a public address to the nation, President Kenyatta stated that paying the teachers will disrupt harmonization of the public service that is in progress. He also argued that the current state of the economy make the increment unsustainable. However, a substantive argument from the Parliament’s Budget Office (PBO) said that Government can afford to increase the wages and end perennial industrial strikes if it cuts down on wasteful spending. The report states that this includes all strikes by public officials. The report titled “MPs budget watch 2015-16: Value for money,” further calls for efforts to ensure that Kenya Revenue Authority collects more in taxes so as to handle the increasing financial demands.

Going by the PBO’s report, teachers, doctors and nurses need to be accorded their due significance given their contribution to the economy. They should be paid something, even if not what the court declared. Government should show leadership and respect court orders by whenever issued.

On the short to medium term, government should negotiate with all the public servants unions. Satisfied public servants are essential to good service delivery to alleviate sufferings of majority of Kenyans dependent on public schools and health system respectively. As government seeks to check the public wage bill, performance contracts need to be introduced to check the marked watering down of the education and health systems.

In labour relations, strikes are pursued as a measure of last result. Would you say majority of our teachers, doctors and nurses serve Kenyans out of passion or just seek short term gain? Are you satisfied with the quality of education in public schools and the public health system? Beyond salary increments, what measures should be introduced to improve the education and health systems?

Kenya needs to be vigilant in building her democracy

Posted by on 19th September 2015

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Every year on September 15th the world marks the International Day of Democracy as a special day to strengthen national programmes devoted to the promotion and consolidation of democracy. This year’s theme ‘space for civil society’ was timely especially for us in Kenya where Parliamentarians have recently rejected oversight over their role be it in the form an ombudsman office or media coverage.

This week, MPs rejected a proposal to establish an ombudsman office to receive complaints against them. They argued that it was equivalent to “procuring a dictator for Parliament”. The MPs, however, agreed to allow the Powers and Privileges Committee to come up with a code of conduct and propose punitive measures against rogue MPs.

Kenyans will vividly remember that just a few months ago, the same Powers and Privileges Committee investigated the Public Accounts Committee then chaired by Hon. Ababu Namwamba. The committee hardly did much to restore Kenyans’ confidence with the House. To add salt into injury, the implicated legislators were only moved to other committees.

The Constitution in Article 1 states that all sovereign power belongs to the people and shall be exercised in accordance with the Constitution. In addition, Article 3 of the Constitution expects Kenyans to respect, uphold and defend it.

Often, Kenyans have witnessed bad behavior of various legislators. They range from alleged corruption to criminal accusations, all which point to the need to ensure that elected officials do not keep evading the rule of law and justice.

Chapter six of our Constitution places tremendous expectations in leaders. This chapter on leadership and integrity expects state officers, who are elected officials, to be objective, honest, competent and impartial in their service delivery. They should also undertake their functions without prejudice.

The Speaker of the National Assembly has also been called out by many Kenyans including MPs who felt that he failed to live up to expectations. Parliamentary committees have also been opaque in their deliberations and manner in which they sometimes conduct business, raising questions on their suitability and fidelity to Kenyans, transparency and accountability.

Against these concerns is the grave need to ensure that public funds are used for the development of the country. To do this Parliament must be beyond reproach but since there is a general reluctance to internalize openness and accountability in its structure, establishment of a watchdog over parliament is crucial. This is critical to promote openness, transparency and accountability as when it is done internally, chances of objectivity are blurred.

Finally, MPs ought to realize that their powers are held in trust for Kenyans but after all is said and done, Kenyans have a duty to elect leaders of integrity. Secondly, critical processes like the recalling clause in the Constitution and using the courts should be strengthened and promoted to ensure that Parliamentarians do not abuse their powers and privileges.


Affirmative Action Social Development Fund against the spirit of the Constitution

Posted by on 12th September 2015

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The recently launched Affirmative Action Social Development Fund (AASDF) is against the spirit of the Constitution. Women County Representatives (WCR) lobbied for the fund arguing that without it, their presence at the grassroots level is not being felt. Apparently, the WCRs will spend the Ksh 2 billion kitty to support women, youth and marginalized groups.

Projects which the affirmative action fund is designed to support include helping the recovery of sexual and gender-based violence survivors, youth who have dropped out of school, orphans and vulnerable children and talent nurturing of young people.

The fund which will be disbursed for the first time, comes at a time when a court ruling on the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) found it unconstitutional and ordered that it be restructured within a year.

The most fundamental question in the ruling was on the principle of separation of powers. Parliament is supposed to undertake representation, legislation and oversight including controlling the budget. Having elected MPs sit in CDF committees’ makes them part of the executive as they get involved in projects implementation.

When CDF was introduced in 2003, MPs were patrons of their local committees. However, the 2010 Constitution rendered the fund unnecessary. But in utter disregard of the law, they amended the law in January 2013 to give themselves a greater say.

The court ruled that the fund offends devolution hence it needs to be handled by devolved governments. So far, various stakeholders including MPs are working to amend the CDF Act to be in tandem with the Constitution and the court order.

Under the Constitution, the functions that the CDF kitty supports are the same as those devolved units. This brings in an issue of duplicity and also an opening for corruption. Already, the Auditor-General has exposed possible fraud running into more than Sh200 million in CDF expenditures from over 30 constituencies.

Some of the roles expected of the AASDF kitty also overlap with the National and County government mandates which renders it also unnecessary. Institutions should stick to their mandates and not interfere and purport to undertake functions which should be done by a different institution, or organ of government.

If the AASDF kitty is rolled out, a wide door to black-mail the National and County governments on budgetary matters will have been opened. If CDF did not exist, the Women County Representatives would not have demanded for their own fund. Senators have also been lobbying for a fund and in some counties Ward Representatives have already allocated themselves a budget for their ward. Such funds weaken oversight and establish parallel governance at the local level instead of creating a cohesive entity.

A key lesson from the CDF funds is politicians’ use them to rally support during elections. They only start projects that ensure they personally benefit directly or indirectly through their cronies. This is essentially what the Constitution wanted to cure by introducing devolution. In this case, should the AASDF kitty even be deployed? What will it take to nip it?

National Assembly has powers to end the Teachers Strike

Posted by on 7th September 2015

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Kenyan teachers have been agitating for their pay increase for close to 18 years and Parliament has been right at the centre. In the current tussle, the Budget and Appropriations committee of the National Assembly decided teachers’ salaries would not be implemented because teachers declined to sign performance contracts.

Hansard records show the last teachers’ salary review was done 1997 following a strike that led to adopting a phased salary structure that ended in 2007.  Reporting to Parliament in July 2008, Hon. Calist Mwatela who was the assistant minister of education admitted there were huge discrepancies between the teachers’ salaries and that of other public servants. Regardless, the salary structure agreed upon in 1997 was not honored.

In January 2009, the Ministry of Education (MOE) formed the Teachers Service Remuneration Committee to discuss how they would pay the teachers’ pay rise amounting to sh17 billion. However deliberations of the committee with TSC and union officials did not yield fruits.

Teachers striked again in September 2011.  Parliament discussed the issue at length as the strike paralyzed learning as students prepared for their national examinations. Parliamentarians discussed the need to not only increase teachers’ numbers but also their pay in order to motivate them to work better.

The matter was debated again in 2012 as Parliamentarians evaluated allowances given to teachers among other officials. At the time, the MOE explained that further discussions on salaries would be addressed by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission. Moreover, the Minister of education claimed the phased salary increment had been implemented fully.

During the budget making process in 2013, MPs again raised the issue of disparities in allowances that teachers get in comparison to other civil servants and urged that this be rectified. In fact, when Dr. Lydia Nzomo was considered and approved as the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) chairperson they tasked her to end the perennial strikes over salaries.

It is clear that MPs have elaborated on this issue for a long time. In fact, any discussion captured in the Hansard about teachers also includes comments on their need to be better remunerated.  Teachers perform a critical service and shape every young Kenyan’s future. Disgruntled teachers cannot give quality service as they are distracted running other businesses to make ends meet.

Under the Constitution, Parliament controls the purse strings and allocates and locates budgets. As it was evidenced when they located some additional funds for counties, they have the powers to decide on the matter. Parliament could for instance allow TSC to pay them from their existing budget and replenish it from supplementary budget. Wisdom must inform the final decision. What do you think?

Let us live up to the demands of the Constitution

Posted by on 28th August 2015

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Kenyans went through a grueling past to birth the Constitution in 2010, yet the last five years has seen them leave its implementation to political leaders who as time has proven cannot be trusted. The great expectations and policy demands captured in the Constitution need an engaged citizenry to be realized.

The Constitution in article 3 states that every person has an obligation to respect, uphold and defend the Constitution. This clause should translate in Kenyans taking the challenge or exercising their right against anyone who threatens the dictates of the Constitution.

The public must not only participate in their affairs but also call to order leaders who do not live up to their oath of office. Although, the Constitution gives the public the right to recall elected leaders who fail to undertake their duties as expected, the clause remains untested yet time and again citizens complain that their leader has failed in one way or another.

The provision that has been well utilized is petitions. Citizens have petitioned Parliament to undertake investigations, some of which have seen reforms taking place like that which led to the ousting of former Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commissioners (EACC). The other petition still being investigated is the dissolution of the Makueni County Government.

Kenyans greatest failure has been the low attendance of various public participation forums available to interact with county and national governments. The main issue driving this has been the perception that their input will not be considered. However, judicial decisions that have kept underlining the need for public input have helped to encourage the public to take up their responsibility. Processes that have not included public opinion have severally been termed an illegality.

The call for this Constitution was inspired by the lack of a people centered public affairs management. Kenyans were tired of dictatorship. Today, by Kenyans not taking up the opportunities laid in the Constitution, they are betraying the same call and sweat that informed the sacrifices for a new legal order.

On the political parties’ front, today the public fund the leading parties, meaning that they should demand from them servant leadership through their participation. The public should also ensure political parties are representative and meet Constitutional demands expected of them. In all the parties, people are yet to demand for grassroots structures that will promote their participation.

Kenyans must seize the moment and take charge of their affairs in line with article 1(i) which states all sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya and shall be exercised only in accordance of the Constitution.

Kenya needs bold individuals to stand up and call for what is right within political structures be it in the Executive, Parliament, political parties or county assemblies. The Judiciary has shown that when you side with the Constitution, you always win. The buck stops with the public!  What will you do?

Extending time to pass key Constitutional Bills must be done prudently

Posted by on 24th August 2015

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MPs will have an informal Kamukunji to change the dates for the passage of key Constitutional Bills as August 27th nears without them discussing them as stipulated in the Constitution.

A total of 28 Bills were required to have been passed by August 27th. They are the Minimum and Maximum Land Holding Acreage, Agreements on National Resources Bill, Forest Bill, Community Land Bill, Physical Planning Bill, Investigation and Historical Land Injustices Bill, Land Use Bill and Evictions Bill.

Others are the Energy Bill, the Petroleum Exploration and Production Bill, the Bill on Representation of Marginalised Groups, Two-Thirds Gender Principle Bill, the Seeds and Plant Varieties Bill, the Organisation and Administration of Appeal Bill, and the Small Claims Court and the Contempt of Court Bill.

The House earlier shortened the publication period for eight proposed Bills from 14 days to one and formally introduced them to the House for first reading. These are the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Bill, the Community Land Bill, the Physical Planning Bill, the High Court (Organisation and Administration) Bill, the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Expression Bill, the Forests Conservation and Management Bill, and the Small Claims Court and Court of Appeal (Organisation and Administration) Bill.

The House requires a two-thirds majority of 233 MPs to be present and voting to extend the deadline of any constitutional Bill from the date set in the Constitution. Speaker Justin Muturi banned travelling of MPs outside the country to ensure all are in the country to deliberate and decide on the matter. The Kamukunji will also deliberate on the amendments to the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) Act.

Legislators have claimed that the delay is due to failure by key institutions to draft and publish the Bills in time for debate. The institutions are the Attorney General’s office, Cabinet and the Constitution Implementation Commission (CIC). Indeed if they have yet provided the House with the Bills, then it is not wholly their fault to fail to pass them in time. The Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) of the National Assembly has the power to sanction the specific institutions delaying the Bills.

Perhaps the wisdom of not wanting to rush Bills is to ensure they are accorded the quality time they deserve so as not to pass half-baked laws that will have a grave impact on the republic.

CIOC has proposed 12 months extension to pass the Bills. This motion should be passed with timelines on when they have to be presented in the House for debate. In addition, it should entail sanctions on institutions and offices that fail to provide the Bills within the stipulated timelines.

These Bills have a huge impact on Kenya as they directly affect the core of the country. They should be prioritized as a matter of national importance.

The KDF Amendment Bill needs revision

Posted by on 17th August 2015

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The Kenya Defence Forces (Amendment) Bill 2015 that seeks to amend the Kenya Defence Forces Act 2012 has wanting provisions. A study of the recently published Bill reveals key issues that are inconsistent with a free and democratic society. The Bill:

  1. Removes the legal requirement for Cabinet Secretaries to monitor defence matters and report the same to the President and Parliament;
  2. Removes the requirement for service commanders to commission research and benchmark against best practices on the Service;
  3. Removes the Director of Public Prosecution oversight role in punishing its members for  civil offences committed outside Kenya;
  4. Removes medical and salary obligations rightfully accorded to KDF members deployed in missions whenever they are hurt or killed in the process;
  5. Repeals the requirement to publish and publicize annual reports arguing that defence matters could be prejudicial to national security.

The Bill’s provisions will affect all Kenyans. For instance, removing obligations to compensate or pay all dues for officers on duty is something their family members will feel.

However on the good side, the Bill contains some prudent provisions. The Bill:

  1. Lists auxillary reserves as being Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Wildlife Service and National Youth Service; and
  2. Streamlines the military chain of command;

As the National Assembly needs to interrogate it, when it is committed to the committee stages and also provide for adequate and robust public participation.

Specifically, the House needs to

  1. Do away with the provisions that infringe on the right to know the operations of KDF in a given year. They can restrict specific details but broader issues must be published and publicized. For instance, Kenyans need to know how many of their fellow citizens are involved and those who die due to involvement of KDF in Somalia.
  2. Ensure KDF members are accorded their rightful recognition and be paid if hurt in the course of duty and their families compensated as currently stated in the KDF Act 2012. In any case, the current Act should provide better guidelines on the matter.
  3. Have oversight on operations at all times including deployment of KDF members locally. This requirement needs to be reinstated.
  4. Get the Senates input. The memorandum of the Bill states that the Bill does not concern county governments. This rightfully is so but some of the provisions the Bill is seeking to amend, delete or repeal need Parliament’s involvement. The Constitution is clear that Parliament is both the Senate and the National Assembly, not one of them or in this case only the National Assembly.

This government Bill needs to be discussed robustly for a better document to be passed by Parliament.

Auditor General needs to communicate better in his reports

Posted by on 8th August 2015

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The Auditor General’s recently published audits of national government ministries, state institutions and county governments need to be improved to better communicate to the public. While auditing is the Auditor’s constitutional mandate, poor communication of its contents make the reports prone to political machinations and failure to capture its true meaning and message.

Communication lies at the core of effective messaging. It can make a whole difference as it would assist citizens to read and understand the audit. For scrutiny by relevant individuals and institutions to be effective,  the right questions must be asked and answered.

Currently, when one reads the audits it is hard to identify the areas where some pilferage took place even after counter-checking the figures as indicated in the summaries. Simple addition of the specific amounts does not guarantee you are correct either.

For instance, if you want to check the unsupported Ksh 66.7 billion expenditure through specific ministries, arriving at that figure is not only tiring, but also likely to be inaccurate. This means the wording of the report is not clear to easily inform the reader.

The Auditor General also has to deliver reports in good time as the Constitution stipulates. Article 229 (4) states that the Auditor should within six months after the end of each financial year, audit various public institutions to confirm whether or not public money has been lawfully used and in an effective way.

This auditing process is part of the general budgeting process that takes place every financial year. It is the final of the four stages, the others being formulation, amendment/approval and implementation. Normally, the audit reports should have been published by last December. Failure to publish the report time, hinders Parliamentarians and public ability to assess financial management of the ministries and determine allocations for the next financial year.

The audit relates to 11 key issues: accounting framework, overall audit, audit of revenue and expenditure statements, unsupported expenditure, excess expenditure, pending bills, management of imprests, maintenance of bank and cash accounts, statement of assets and maintenance of accounting records.

Each area shows how the financial systems of a public office are being managed and those who fail to do it prudently should be punished. Such punishment could be lower budgetary allocations than what they wanted as they have failed to undertake due diligence.

For example, pending bills refers to cases where services and goods are rendered but payments were not honoured during the committed financial year.  Such a transaction carried over to a new financial year might take monies for other developments. Kenya operates a cash system, meaning that it is only when cash is received that commitment is done. It therefore behooves the office holders to pay during the stipulated time.

Regardless, of the late submission of the Auditor General’s report, Parliament must debate its findings and take appropriate actions.


Parliament must strengthen public spending checks

Posted by on 3rd August 2015

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Shocking revelations in the recent Auditor General’s reports on the use of public finances by the national and county government over the 2013/14 financial year, point to misuse of executive power and general institutional inefficiencies.

Only 1.2 percent of national government expenditure for the period under review was incurred in a lawful manner, 60 percent had issues and 38.5 percent could not be explained. The 2013/2014 gross budget of sh1,557,192,721,388 was shared between the National Government and the County Governments at the ratio of 87.5 percent and 12.5 percent respectively.

For instance, during 2013/2014, a number of Ministries, Departments, Commissions and Funds failed to avail documents in support of various expenditure totaling sh66,782,697,987. If minimum wage is sh12,000, sh66 billion can pay about 4,600,00 people for a year! Sixty-six billion is also way more than the sh24 billion Kenya received as loans from foreign governments and organizations.

In absence of the records and documentation, the propriety of the expenditure could not be ascertained and therefore these public funds may not have been utilized lawfully and in an effective manner.

Parliamentarians need to be concerned and act on the failure by the national and county governments to follow the laid down laws. The audit reports reveal the government’s utter disregard of the Public Procurement and Disposal Act 2005 and related Public Procurement Regulations, 2006 and 2013, Government Financial Regulations and Procedures, and Public Finance Management Act, 2012.

The gross concerns raised in the reports relate to unsupported expenditures, non surrender of imprests, unauthorized expenditures, long outstanding reconciling items in bank reconciliation statements, excess expenditure, mis-allocation of expenditure items and lack of adequate disclosures.

Others are discrepancies between the financial statements and the respective ledgers and the trial balance, differences between 2012/2013 closing audited balances and opening balances for 2013/2014, unsupported balances in the financial statements, and failure to prepare financial statements in accordance to International Public Sector Accounting Standards and treasury instructions

Although Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich has come out to defend state agencies that requisite documents were availed late, it leaves a lot to be desired as to how public officers value public duty and public money. Failure to provide the necessary records in time could mean that they were non-existent and only conjured up when the audits were published to provide explanations.

Parliament has a duty to restore public trust in public officials by ensuring they are beyond reproach and working towards that which their oath of office expects them to deliver. It needs to call all the relevant officials to answer the concerns raised by the Auditor General and where they cannot, order further investigations and prosecutions by the relevant government agencies.

On the other hand, the Auditor General’s office should be strengthened through the Public Audit bill and capacitated to provide the annual audit reports in a timely manner and inform the next year’s budget.