Azimio, Kenya Kwanza in Council of Governors face-off

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja (right) and his deputy James Muchiri.

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja (right) and his deputy James Muchiri on August 25, 2022, during their swearing-in. Governors and their deputies converge in Mombasa next week and they will also pick the Council of Governors (CoG) leadership.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Governors and their deputies converge in Mombasa next week where they will pick the Council of Governors (CoG) leadership.
  • Behind-the-scenes lobbying has intensified as county bosses jostle for the plum Council of Governors chairperson slot.
  • Kenya Kwanza coalition has 23 governors in its fold with the inclusion of Meru's Kawira Mwangaza (Independent). Azimio also has 23 county bosses on its side

Behind-the-scenes lobbying has intensified as county bosses jostle for the plum Council of Governors chairperson position amid a fierce battle between the Azimio and Kenya Kwanza political formations.

Governors and their deputies converge in Mombasa next Wednesday to Saturday for their induction conference in which they will also pick the Council of Governors (CoG) leadership.

The four-day event’s theme is “Towards better Governance and outcome-driven service delivery at the Counties”, according to a concept note seen by Saturday Nation.

The CoG chairperson post, created by the Intergovernmental Relations Act (2012) to oversee the activities of the governors, has increasingly emerged as politically influential.

Governors Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Johnson Sakaja (Nairobi), Joseph ole Lenku (Kajiado), Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni) and Ken Lusaka (Bungoma) have been mentioned as those angling for the post and have picked nomination forms.

Kenya Kwanza coalition has 23 governors in its fold with the inclusion of Meru's Kawira Mwangaza (Independent).

Azimio also has 23 county bosses on its side. Taita Taveta Andrew Mwadime, also an independent, has yet to publicly declare which coalition he sides with.

The position is prestigious and comes with all the trappings of power as it influences most of the decisions made in the counties.

Also, the chairperson is entitled to using a helicopter, among other privileges. The CoG spokesperson co-chairs the Intergovernmental Budget Executive Council headed by the Deputy President.

Governors will also be facing a major dilemma in trying to balance party loyalty and their executive roles.

A governor’s job calls for inter-governmental engagements, including occasional direct interaction with the President.

Apart from the elections, governors will also discuss intergovernmental relations, county planning, budgeting and finance, county procurement, as well as public service management.

Deputy President-elect Rigathi Gachagua will open the conference on Thursday while President-elect William Ruto will close it on Friday.

“The governors will also discuss matters of governance, accountability and oversight, as well as launch the council’s strategic plan for this year,” said council CEO Mary Mwiti.

The deputy county bosses are also expected to pick the chairperson of their forum.

Previously, most governors read from different scripts with their assistants, exposing the fragile pre-election arrangements between them.

The office of the deputy governor carries a major responsibility in that if a governor were to resign, be impeached, or die while in office, they take over for the remainder of the term.

Former Nyeri deputy governor Caroline Karugu was the last chairperson of the Deputy Governors Forum.

During her tenure, the deputies demanded changes in the law to give them reasonable powers in the devolved units.

She insisted that they are a critical cog in the wheels of devolution.

The office of the deputy governor is a creation of the Constitution.

Section 180 of the supreme law states that a governor candidate must have a running mate to get elected.

Instructively, the only functions that are ascribed to the deputy governor are set out in Section 179 (3 & 4)—being the deputy chief executive officer of the county and deputising the governor in his or her absence. Section 181, involving the removal of the governor, invokes the deputy as heir apparent. 

CoG director of Legal Services Irene Ogamaba said county executives, directors and chief officers will also undergo orientation.

“The expected changes in administration at the counties will see some officers continue serving in their role, others will be new but seasoned officials with extensive expertise in their respective positions, while others may lack comprehensive knowledge and experience in matters devolved governance. As such induction is indeed timely and necessary,” she added.

The Mombasa induction comes against the backdrop of continued wastage of devolution funds.

According to the latest report by Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu, counties diverted funds meant for services failed to bank local revenue and made irregular payments to contractors and staff, leading to the loss of billions of taxpayers’ funds.

The report shows that financial impropriety remains the biggest threat to devolution close to 10 years after counties became operational.

The report—tabled in Parliament in June—shows that a number of counties are fraught with irregular payments and procurements, cannot keep and maintain cashbooks, and lack fixed asset registers.

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