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CoG backs referendum, but only if it entrenches devolution

The team co-led by Governors Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) and Kiraitu Murungi (Meru) will embark on a thorough audit on the implementation of devolution since adoption of the current Constitution before coming up with a new funding proposal/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 25 – The Council of Governors (CoG) has constituted a committee to draft a unified agenda for a constitutional amendment to increase resources allocated to the counties.

The team co-led by Governors Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) and Kiraitu Murungi (Meru) will embark on a thorough audit on the implementation of devolution since adoption of the current Constitution before coming up with a new funding proposal.

Other members of the committee are Governors Joyce Laboso (Bomet), Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu), Amason Kingi (Kilifi), Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua), Paul Chepkwony (Kericho), Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Ali Roba (Mandera), and Cornel Rasanga (Siaya).

Council Chairperson Josphat Nanok however told the press on Thursday the CoG will not back any amendment that does not seek to empower devolved units.

“CoG supports the referendum but only if it seeks to increase allocations to counties as in previous call for Pesa Mashinani and if the process is Wanjiku-led,” he said after an extra-ordinary meeting of the county chiefs.

“The Council will undertake an internal audit to look at how counties have implemented devolution and this will in turn inform the referendum question,” Nanok added.

Article 203 (2)of the Constitution provides, “for every financial year, the equitable share of the revenue raised nationally that is allocated to county governments shall be not less than 15 per cent of all revenue collected by the national government.”

“The amount referred to in clause (2) shall be calculated on the basis of the most recent audited accounts of revenue received, as approved by the National Assembly,” Article 203 (3) further stipulates.

Calls for increased funding for counties were first championed by the founding CoG Chairperson Isaac Ruto.

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Ruto’s calls were met with fierce opposition from the Executive led by President Uhuru Kenyatta who challenged the governors to use prudently resources allocated in previous financial years before seeking for more funding.

The announcement by CoG on Thursday adds to the number of proposals made for a constitutional review with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga having indicated that he would back a referendum to change the structure of government.

Odinga had while addressing delegates attending the 5th Annual Devolution Conference held in Kakamega suggested the addition of a third tier of government to further enrich devolution.

“My proposal is that we adopt a three-tier system that retains the current counties, creates regional or provincial governments and retains the national government with a very clear formula for revenue sharing,” the former premier said on April 25.

DP William Ruto later, in May, responded to Odinga in a thinly veiled reference terming the proposal as misguided.

Speaking at the 3rd Annual Legislative Summit in Mombasa on May 2 Ruto said the clamour for constitutional change was being fronted by politicians who had failed to win public trust to govern.

“Unfortunately sometimes, lazy people who don’t want to work hard and incompetent people who cannot formulate any meaningful development programmes, and some who lose elections use the Constitution as the bogeyman,” he stated.

The Deputy President said leaders should instead focus on how to improve the livelihoods of the people they serve.

In recent remarks, Odinga told critics of a constitutional amendment saying the vote would be inevitable, “if that is what Kenyans want.”

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Speaking on the Migori senatorial campaign trail early this month, Odinga reiterated his stance that a constitutional amendment was unstoppable, a revision from an initial position when he had said the referendum would not be stopped if the public wanted it.

“You can’t stop an idea whose time has come,” he said in Awendo on October 5 when he made a stop to campaign for Ochillo Ayacko, his Orange Democratic Movement party candidate for the Migori senatorial by-election.

“We must evaluate if devolution has been successfully and the emerging bottlenecks,” he argued while saying the constitution was ripe for change.

In response to Odinga’s remarks, DP Ruto on Sunday said he would not engage in a debate on whether or not a referendum should be held.

Speaking at an Anglican Church in Kiambu County, Ruto said the referendum debate would derail the country from the development path set by President Kenyatta in his four-pillar pledge of food security, affordable healthcare, manufacturing, and affordable housing.

“There are people bothering me; they want to force me to join them in the referendum quest. I want to tell them I am sorry, I am not available on issues referendum because I am busy,” he said.

“What I am keen on is the consolidation of President Kenyatta’s legacy by ensuring his Big Four agenda is successful,” the DP indicated.

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