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Why Senate was wrong on Kang’ata compromise

Why Senate was wrong on Kang’ata compromise

The world over, the Senate is the house of reason. It is the upper house. The house where sober discussions take place; where grave issues of national interest are hashed out by sober, mature and respected members of society. For this reason, senators are powerful, revered and even popular. The same applies to the House of Lords in the United Kingdom.

But that is not the case in Kenya, where the Senate has failed to  distinguish itself. Nobody can speak of the Kenyan Senate with pride and confidence. Even the few good senators have been dragged down by their noisy and unscrupulous counterparts.

What transpired on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday evening this week was disappointing. Our senators suspended all reason. One would have been forgiven for thinking that the not-so-honourable senators were spectators in a football match, cheering a team on penalties.

Before the Senate was a very serious matter. And as much as the Executive had already pronounced itself on the matter, the senators should not have been so irritated. Instead they proved themselves to be highly temperamental.

The Executive, cognisant of what it had done, came up with a compromise. A compromise which, if the senators who voted against it acted maturely ― and I am not saying they are not mature ― they would have realised that the Executive had backed down on its initial position. In their wisdom, or lack thereof, the Executive must have realised that the initial proposal by Senate Majority Chief Whip Irungu Kang’ata was unpopular and polarising, hence the compromise.

This was a strange move from government, mainly because governments rarely abandon their resolutions. Governments never want to appear defeated and are not known to walk out on resolutions with their tail between their legs.

But on Tuesday evening, government decided to do exactly that in order to buy time for re-strategising. The senators, sadly, were so determined to send a message to the Executive that they couldn’t see this. As far as they were concerned, this new position by government was a blessing in disguise.

The Senate would actually have been the biggest beneficiary of the new proposal by Mr Kang’ata. Here’s why.

Considering the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report is in the offing, the proposals therein ― if the initial proposal is anything to go by ― will change things so tremendously that the argument by government would not hold water. The initial BBI report had already suggested allocation to counties was going to be increased by a whopping 20 per cent. This, together with a better working Equalisation Fund, would have rendered this particular debate useless.

The question is: What have counties been doing with previous allocations? If you are like me you’ll agree that most of the counties are still unable to absorb even the little money they have been  getting. For instance, in 2013, Makueni, Lamu, Machakos, Kilifi, Trans Nzoia and Nakuru were unable to use half of the money to offer services to their residents.

A report released by the Controller of Budget on how counties spent money meant for development in the 2017-2018 financial year observed that they were struggling to absorb money allocated for development. For example, Mandera and Kirinyaga counties did not spend a single coin on development.

This is not to say that the amounts being allocated to counties should be reduced but simply that the county governments have failed. It is always that they are either struggling to account for billions of shillings still in their accounts at the end of the financial year, or the county bosses are being grilled concerning corruption. Apart from a few counties that have seen real development, devolution can be said to have flopped,  thanks to senators and governors.

As a country, we must think long and hard about how marginalised communities can benefit from devolution. The current structure is simply not working. Devolution as a tool for developing marginalised parts of the country has failed no matter how much money is allocated to the devolved units.

And as wrong as it is to continue pumping billions to continue fostering development in developed areas, it is downright dangerous to continue giving billions to under-developed areas only for the funds to end up in the leaders’ pockets.

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3 Comments

  • Brian Dan , July 31, 2020 @ 1:40 PM

    Nice message to the house of “sober minds”

  • Larry Abara , July 31, 2020 @ 1:55 PM

    Senators should move with speed to melt down the impasse. Counties are finding it hard to process salaries for their workers, and this is straining and putting many of them under financial duress, especially at this critical and uprecedented time of a global pandemic. The process is a bit herculean, given the political games around it. Let’s hope white smoke will bellow soonest ! Good piece, ndugu.

  • Lawi Buyachi , July 31, 2020 @ 2:11 PM

    Great & deep insights

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