It appears 2017 will be the year of alternative facts in Kenya. For instance, President Uhuru Kenyatta this week said that our doctors are better paid than their private counter-parts but official documents show that as late as October last year, a medical officer (intern) was getting a salary of Sh. 35,910. Indeed this is not the starting salary for those joining the private sector currently. The President was addressing Kenyans during the fourth Devolution Conference in Naivasha. Before we drown each other on social media with arguments on the doctors greed, let us do some due diligence. It’s an election year, there will be a lot of alternative facts.
The Baringo bloodshed is another issue that’s making politicians continue giving their versions of fabricated truth. While the Deputy President’s shoot to kill order is a little aggressive and might be counter-productive, the way the politicians in the region have come out to oppose the directive without sound alternative solutions leaves a lot to be desired. Also, that this is coming to the fore right when we’re headed for elections makes one wonder whether it is purely political. Regardless of where we stand politically, we should never condone thievery, destruction of property and killing of persons in the name of anything – culture or politics.
This year’s devolution conference focused on the transformation devolution has brought to the country. Indeed to the credit of the National and Devolved governments, the local mwananchi has seen some of the fruits of this new system of governance. Some Kenyans in marginalized areas saw a tarmac road for the first time since independence courtesy of devolution. Counties in Western Kenya have seen their residents enjoy a continuous flow of water even during the prolonged drought courtesy of devolution.
Indeed political tensions have toned down and Kenyans are more tolerant of leaders from other regions as they realize redistribution of resources unlike the previous governance system. Devolution ensures proper allocation and distribution of resources regardless of whoever becomes President, so the suspicion previously linked with the office has decreased.
Nonetheless, the journey hasn’t been a walk in the park because of the obvious lack of management skills among some governors as evidenced by heavy spending on otherwise unnecessary projects. Also Senators and Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) have proved a hindrance to devolution. Senators are supposed to defend resource allocation to the counties and provide oversight with regard to matters raised in the Auditor General’s report. On the other hand MCAs are expected to legislate to address county priorities, opportunities and challenges as well as oversight the county budget.
The rivalry between Senators and Governors has only created bad blood, stalled development and proper implementation of devolution. Nobody doubts corruption has been rampant at the county level but the much Senators could do was complain on the floor of the House. Other than a few laws to help with streamlining counties, there’s been little or no oversight by the Senators other than entertaining impeachment motions by overzealous MCAs.
Rather than the Senators working closely with the governors, attending their conferences to get a feel of what exactly governors are up to and therefore challenge them from a point of information. Senators took to avoiding Devolution conferences as a way of showing their disapproval of the ongoing corruption. Only three senators attended last year’s devolution conference in Meru. In addition, most Senators have promised to unseat the current governors.
But that’s the thing with our politics, our politicians make emotional decisions, repeat same tactics that bear little or no fruit and get personal with each other at the expense of the nation. Senators now want to be governors, rather than finding ways to seal the loopholes through the law. How naïve, yet we know part of the problem has been MCAs who are only too excited to gobble up tax payers money rather than legislate useful county laws.
And while we’re on MCAs, a number of them missed the conference because they failed to adjust their calendars to rhyme with the devolution conference. It’s pointless to underscore here that the MCAs are one of the biggest stakeholders in devolution and yet failed to pass an adjournment motion allowing them to attend the fourth devolution conference. After four solid years it appears the MCAs still need training on how to conduct House business that coincides with important issues. Their unnecessary standoffs with governors over county budgets have led to stalled projects costing the county more in form of legal fees from unsatisfied contractors. Their lavish and otherwise useless benchmarking trips have led to wastage of county resources.
As we prepare to exercise our political democratic right on 8th August let us think about devolution and consider leaders who believe in it especially at the MCA level. Let’s be keen on their promises and see if they really understand what devolution is about. The same rod should apply to those who want to be Governors and Senators too. Let’s protect devolution at the ballot.