MPs plan cutbacks citing high cost of devolution

MPs in the House during a past session. FILE PHOTO |

What you need to know:

  • The initiative comes as the government announced a freeze in hiring and possible retrenchment after an evaluation is conducted to determine the optimal numbers required in public service
  • But Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale sought to differ with those pushing the idea of doing away with women representatives, saying they were constitutionally in office

The high cost of devolution and the government’s struggle to implement Kenya’s expensive constitution could lead to the removal of some of the 47 seats reserved for women in the National Assembly.

And the effects of the changes could trickle further down as the MPs are also proposing a review of boundaries to merge wards with a view to cutting down the number from 1,450 to about 900.

Also targeted are some 13 constitutional commissions with bloated membership which draw huge allowances. MPs now want them scrapped and membership reduced to three.

The government has also threatened to retrench some public servants after an evaluation is conducted to determine the optimal numbers required in public service.

Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo, who is also the Deputy Opposition Whip, is spearheading the move by several MPs who claim they want to save the government from financial collapse attributed to a choking wage bill currently standing at Sh458.7 billion.

The initiative comes as the government announced a freeze in hiring and possible retrenchment after an evaluation is conducted to determine the optimal numbers required in public service.

In an interview with NTV on Saturday, Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning Ms Anne Waiguru, whose docket handles the public service, confirmed the freeze on public service recruitment and salary reviews. However, the move comes amidst supremacy wrangles pitting the National Assembly against the Senate and MPs against Governors.

STRUCTURE UNSUSTAINABLE

On Sunday, Mr Midiwo said that though the plan does not necessarily target the County Women Representatives, there is need to reduce the number of counties in the country to only 14.

“We need to find a solution. We have a constitution whose implementation will bring this country down in the next 36 months if we do not take bold measures to save it,” Mr Midiwo told the Nation.

The MP further claimed that 60 per cent of the county governments are at the moment struggling to meet their obligations.

He said that India with a population of 1.3 billion only has a bicameral assembly of 565 members while Kenya with just about 40 million has a bicameral representation of 416 legislators. Speaking during the burial of former Juja MP George Thuo in Thika, the Gem MP said the country cannot afford to fund the 47 county governments and salaries for nearly 400 members of parliament.

“We need to be realistic; the country cannot sustain the 47 county governments, senators, the nearly 400 MPs and hundreds of county assembly members,” Mr Midiwo said and asked President Kenyatta, who was present, to initiate the review of the government structure.

Samburu West MP Lati Lelelit and Suba MP Millie Odhiambo. Ms Odhiambo said the country was over-represented.

But Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale sought to differ with those pushing the idea of doing away with women representatives, saying they were constitutionally in office.

“The problem of huge salaries cannot be sorted out by removing the 47 women representatives,” said the Senator.

The chairman of the Commission on Administrative of Justice Amollo Otiende blamed MPs for the bloated bicameral parliament, saying the Committee of Experts had suggested retention of the 210 constituencies but was overruled.

He said the Constitution protects the current county boundaries, adding that a review can only be done after 10 years.

By ISAAC ONGIRI, DENNIS ODUNGA and OLIVER MUSEMBI

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