Governors and the Executive struck a conciliatory tone Thursday, pledging to work together to hasten the implementation of devolution.
The difficulties facing devolution have in recent years been compounded by the face-off between governors, senators and even the presidency, arising from differences on how accountability between the two sets of elected representatives should be exercised.
Deputy President (DP) Rigathi Gachagua and the 47 governors said devolution remains one of the major benefits that Kenyans gained from the promulgation of the current Constitution.
Even as they spoke at the county bosses induction conference which started at Pride Inn Paradise Hotel in Mombasa on Thursday, leaders from both levels of government acknowledged that their relationship has not been rosy in the last 10 years of devolution implementation.
The governors said the environment for implementation of devolution has not been amiable, adding it is the moral obligation of all the 47 governors to ensure devolution works for the country, a thing that would also help the Kenya Kwanza administration fulfill its promises to Kenyans.
Mr Gachagua said rather than fight each other, governors and senators, as natural allies, and the Executive can work together to increase their respective roles.
The DP noted that there were enemies of devolution who had been eager to facilitate the fights between institutions mandated to ensure the success of devolution.
He acknowledged the relationship between the two levels of government is undermined by irregular meetings of the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council (IBEC) and the Summit to discuss critical devolution matters.
The Summit is the supreme agency for intergovernmental relations.
The law provides that it meets at least twice a year. Its role, among others, is the promotion of consultation and co-operation between the two levels of government.
It comprises the President, who is the chairman, and all the governors. In the absence of the President, the DP chairs the summit, while the chairman of the CoG is the vice chairman.
“We will ensure that these forums are not monologues but serious consultative forums. We will ensure they unlock some of these contentious concerns like delayed disbursement, transfer of functions followed by resources,” Mr Gachagua said, adding the first Summit meeting will be held before the end of the year.
The DP also expressed his displeasure at governors suspected of graft have been treated and arrested in the past, while also expressing support for the fight against corruption.
Shielded from prosecution
Saying governors should not be shielded from prosecution over graft, Mr Gachagua said investigations of elected leaders suspected to be engaged in corruption must be done with decorum by the crime busters by virtue of the authority of their offices.
On transfer of functions, the county bosses said there is need to break down the activities under each function and calculate afresh the cost of running them.
“The functions were not priced properly. We need a remedy to unbundle the functions,” said Wajir Governor Ahmed Abdullahi.
The issue of having a free hand in firing County Executives Members (CEM) also featured on the first day of the induction, with governors saying they should exercise the power to hire and fire.
In May, the Employment and Labour Relations Court said, though the county chiefs are allowed, under Section 31 of the County Governments Act (CGA), to dismiss CEMs, the officials must be accorded procedural fairness in the process of their removal from office.
This, the court said, includes allowing them to respond to the accusations levelled against them.
Ms Florence Kajuju, the chairperson of the Commission on Administrative Justice (Ombudsman) said governors must ensure the schemes of service for county executives and chief officers provide for disciplinary action.
Slump in internal revenue collected in the counties since the inception of devolution featured during Thursday’s discussions.
Governors have been accused of collecting less compared to the defunct local authorities and relying more on the equitable share.
Mr Gachagua said counties should improve on local revenues but reiterated it has not been an easy task, as county governments still lack parent legislations governing this.