Drop clamour for more counties just for ‘change’

Kuria West MP Mathias Robi (left) and his Kura East counterpart Marwa Kitayama

Kuria West MP Mathias Robi (left) and his Kura East counterpart Marwa Kitayama (second left) with traders in Homa Bay last year. Mr Robi has proposed a Bill seeking to create Kuria, Teso, Mount Elgon, East Pokot and Mwingi counties, which would raise the number of devolved units to 52.

Photo credit: George Odiwuor | Nation Media Group

Creation of more counties as proposed by Kuria East MP Marwa Kitayama is unnecessary and an extra economic burden. Not with the myriad challenges counties face a decade later.

Some pundits aver that the counties are too many, there lacked a harmonised formula of determining the size and population of the regional units during the 2010 Constitution-making and some are so small to be efficient drivers of devolution as envisaged.

An example would be Lamu, with two constituencies and 143,920 residents, and Nakuru with 2.1 million people in 11 constituencies.

But more unfortunate is that, 10 years later, we still view counties as conclaves for ethnic groups and now want to segment them further into sub-ethnic cocoons when we are supposed to be growing into one nation with freedom to live and belong to any part of the republic and benefit equally as a citizen.

The rights of marginalised and smaller communities the proposed bill seeks to protect will be achieved by local leaders engaging on how to share the county resources to reflect regional balance while caring for the marginalised, minorities and special interest groups. That calls for continuous dialogue among elected leaders to enhance inclusivity.

If we clamour for more counties as the solution to woes, many more supposedly marginalised communities will also seek to be included in the long list.

For now, we need to protect the counties and help them to focus on their urgent needs—including putting up systems and structures of human resource, procurement and revenue collection, budget implementation, establishing own revenues streams and value addition to local produce.

Let the national government send all devolved functions to counties and follow them up with resources and ensure shareable revenue is remitted timeously.

Rather than push for division, Parliament should pass a progressive revenue sharing formula that guarantees money to the devolved units according to population and other agreeable parameters, then follow the implementation through oversight.

It has been generally agreed, for example, that the Senate Oversight Fund be entrenched in the Constitution. And NG-CDF is more of a political than legal issue. The government has taken a position on the issue. What remains is a formula to return it legally.

At the same time, the IEBC is expected to kick off the delimitation of boundaries next year. We need to agree on the formula of harmonising constituencies to either have an equal population or retain the same quotas but peg NG-CDF allocation on the number of people. This will cure the imbalances of giving an equal amount (Sh137 million annually) to a constituency like Lamu East, with a population of 22,000, and Naivasha with 314,000 residents.

The need for a constitutional amendment is also key to save the 27 protected constituencies whose population quota fell below the threshold in the last review in 2012. Then we can agree on the form and manner of the process, all the way to a referendum.

Dr Mbae is a leadership and governance consultant. [email protected]


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