, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 6 – Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga has renewed his campaign for the creation of a three-tier system of governance with the introduction of regional governments.
Odinga on Wednesday described some of the counties under the current devolution system as uncompetitive due to population size and other related factors hence the need to form regional governments, which he said would be more economically viable.
“One of the facts we’re dealing with but hardly acknowledge is that a number of our counties as they are today are too tiny to compete and to marshal internal and external resources for development,” he said.
Odinga said some of the counties would do better if they were to be grouped into bigger entities.
In his remarks at the sixth devolution conference in Kirinyaga, Odinga asked governors to use the impending constitutional referendum to effect the changes.
“The creation of regional blocs is a logical response to dealing with the problem of economies of scale in enhancing the potential for development of counties. Council of Governors should robustly consider and debate the need to formalize regionalism,” he said.
According to Odinga, the need for regional governments was evident by the current efforts by counties to coalesce into regional economic development blocs.
He said creation of regional blocs will in no way affect the existence of the 47 county governments saying they will coexist with the regional governments.
“Formalization of regionalism will not necessarily mean dismantling the counties as they are today. We have such a system in the US and some African countries and therefore nobody should stifle this debate for fear of change or merely political expedience,” the former premier said.
Odinga first called for the creation of a third tier of government during last year’s devolution conference in Kakamega, a proposal that Deputy President William Ruto opposed at the time saying devolution should entrenched in the grassroots as opposed to creating more structures at the regional level.
Ruto said the formation of 14 regional governments would not achieve the ideals of devolution key among them taking service delivery closer to the citizens.
“If there will be a suggestion on creating another layer of devolution, it must not necessarily be about amending the constitution. It must be about devolution downwards, not devolution upwards. It’s not about creating another layer, it’s about effective management of resources,” Ruto said at the time.
In his remarks on Wednesday, Odinga also called for sustained efforts against corruption saying all Kenyans must unite behind the purge.
He dismissed as diversionary remarks by a section of leaders accusing the Directorate of Criminal Investigations of a witch-hunt in the war against corruption.
“When a thief steals and they are being chased, they would often create confusion and have a mob descend on the wrong person by pretending they are also running after a thief,” Odinga said.
He told off Deputy President Ruto for dismissing reports that Sh21 billion alleged to have been paid for the construction of two dams in Elgeyo Marakwet had been lost, saying investigators should be given room to independently probe the matter.
“If we’re discussing about the theft of the dams don’t come and tell us that it was not Sh21 billion but Sh7 billion. How did you know?” Odinga said.
Ruto and National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich have indicated that only Sh7.8 billion had been transmitted for the construction of the Arror and Kimwarer dams and that none of the monies, being advance payment of fifteen per cent of the contract amount had been lost.
Rotich who spent some 12 hours on Tuesday at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations recording a statement on the suspected loss of Sh21 billion said Sh12 billion was paid as commitment fee comprising Sh11 billion insurance premium to secure a loan for the dam projects.
“Like any other standard loan facility signed by the government, there are several conditions to be met before funds are available to the borrower and the contractor to commence work,” he said in a press statement published in local dailies on Sunday.
Ruto is scheduled to speak at the devolution conference on Thursday.