, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 23 – They huffed and puffed and howled but stopped short of bringing the house down.
Members of the County Assemblies (MCAs) on Saturday declined to take an official common position on the referendum push by the opposition and a section of Governors despite threats of launching their own referendum push dubbed ‘okoa devolution’ or ‘huduma mashinani’; plays on the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy Okoa Kenya (save Kenya) and Pesa Mashininani (money at the grass roots).
The MCAs instead resolved to form a 15-member technical committee that would, “look into the issues bedeviling devolution that require redress and they will be the ones who will advise the county assemblies on which way to go, whether referendum or not and if referendum which referendum,” The County Assembly Chairman Abdi Nuh explained.
That decision, he went on to explain, would be arrived at in a month. The committee will comprise representatives from each county assembly who are to appoint one of their members to represent them, in the next three days, “because we don’t have much time,” Nuh said.
The 47 nominees would then, from among them, select 15 who would represent the different regions or more politically correct, “clusters,” Nuh said.
The resolution was reached after the MCAs agreed that they did not want to be divided along political or tribal lines, “because we are greater than any one coalition,” Nuh said, and after they agreed they could not trust the Governors.
Their mistrust of governors, Nuh said, was informed by a, “dossier,” in the form of the minutes of a July 2 Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council meeting chaired by Deputy President William Ruto and attended by 26 governors which they contended was illegal because the law provides for only one representative.
They shouted, “shame,” as the names of governors and their deputies who were present were read out because the minutes accused the MCAs of lacking a work ethic and of misusing county funds in foreign trips.
The MCAs howled when it was read out to them that foreign trips were the preserve of Members of Parliament (MPs) and not them and that the travel budget for 2,200 MCAs was pegged at Sh2.5 billion yet that for 417 MPs was Sh9.1 billion.
They also took issue the guidelines that the Salaries and Remuneration Commission was reported to soon be issuing on what constitutes a committee sitting and where they should be held.
The MCAs also demanded that they receive the same benefits as MPs; as President Uhuru Kenyatta had agreed should be the case at their last forum in March, they cited.
They therefore demanded car grants and ward offices, “where do they want us to meet our constituents, in bars?” Nakuru County Assembly Speaker Susan Kihika posed.
But the law, their Chairman assured them, was on their side and it would not allow them to be discriminated against.
Their lawyer, Professor Tom Ojienda, was also present to update them on the status of various cases they’ve filed in the courts challenging discrimination.
The MCAs also passed a resolution, “urging,” President Uhuru Kenyatta not to sign the County Allocation on Revenue Bill and refer it back with a memorandum, “deleting the issue to cap ceilings by the Senate,” which Nuh said had been sneaked in.
Despite their many demands, the MCAs were keen to show that they were not, “councilors,” as Nuh said, and were capable of not letting their disagreements degenerate into violence.
They were also keen to impress upon the public that they were not, “money hungry as has been portrayed in the media,” Nuh said and were only wanted to be, “facilitated,” to play their oversight role in the counties and prevent corruption.
They real threat to devolution they contended, was the governors and not their spending.
On that note they informed the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission that they were not intimidated by them and deserved the same, “rights,” as MPs.
They was however a recognition that their threat of spearheading their own referendum with the aim of guaranteeing themselves these rights would take financial muscle and proposed financing their forum, as the Council of Governors financed theirs allegedly through their county budgets.