Governors hold a stormy meeting as divisions emerge on BBI report

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru  at Enashipai Resort in Naivasha during a governors’ meeting  to discuss contentious issues in the BBI report on November 9, 2020.

Photo credit: Cheboite Kigen | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • At one point, tempers ran so high that CoG chairman Wycliffe Oparanya had to intervene.
  • Governors also differed on the BBI proposal that deputy governors should be given executive committee portfolios.

A governors’ meeting called in Naivasha town to build consensus on a constitutional amendment report turned stormy after they disagreed on proposals that they want changed. 

The summit convened yesterday by the Council of Governors (CoG) ahead of today’s meeting with President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga turned stormy, with the county bosses taking opposing stands on proposals contained in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report.

The contentious issues include a proposal to have a running mate of the opposite gender and a provision to appoint Members of County Assembly and deputy governors as county executive committee members.

At one point, tempers ran so high that CoG chairman Wycliffe Oparanya had to intervene.

The proposal to appoint a governor running mate who is of the opposite gender dominated talks, splitting the county heads into two groups.  Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu supported the proposal, saying it was long overdue.

“I’ve raised the issue, but most of my male counterparts are adamant. For us to have a developed country, women should be on the decision-making table, where resources are being shared, so that they can put their thinking because they form the majority. The claim is that it is difficult to get strong women as running mates,” she said.

Freedom of choice

Governors opposing the proposal, mostly men, maintained that the move was stifling the freedom of choice of a suitable deputy governor. Migori Governor Okoth Obado, for instance, insisted that the move will limit county chiefs’ democratic space.

“Governors should have the opportunity and the freedom to choose a deputy governor. Even in mature democracies like America, it is not mandatory in law to have a woman running mate,” Mr Obado said.

Governors Kiraitu Murungi (Meru) and Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma) agreed with this position. Governors also differed on the BBI proposal that deputy governors should be given executive committee portfolios.

“It should be left open for governors should be allowed to decide the roles to give to their deputies. Some deputies do not even want extra roles,” Mr Wangamati said.

Also discussed was the proposal that MCAs should be appointed to the county executive. The Nation has established that governors raised at least five issues they want included in the BBI report before the referendum, joining the growing list of disgruntled parties pushing for a review of the document.

For instance, the county chiefs want the President and his political ally, Mr Odinga, to reopen the report for revision to give them a free hand to pick their deputies after general elections, instead of going to the ballot with a running mate.

Among other things, governors want powers to hire and fire their deputies. They want clarity on the criteria for the appointment of a prime minister and two deputies as a measure of ensuring inclusivity in the executive.

County chiefs also want Senate strengthened as the Upper House, by giving it veto powers over the National Assembly, to help protect devolution.

Political careers

With 22 second-term governors barred from contesting in 2022, the county chiefs will also be interested in pushing for a provision for what then happens to their political careers after the end of their 10-year terms.

A proposal, including by Mr Odinga, for a third-tier administration had given the second-term county bosses hope for political comebacks after the 2022 polls, if the 14 regional governments were adopted.

Yesterday, those who spoke to the Nation refused to go on record on the proposed regional governments, but insisted that they will push for an assurance of what the BBI has in store for them.

“We had pegged our hopes on the formation of a three-tier government, but unfortunately, the final BBI report did not cater for that. Therefore, we will seize the opportunity to seek an assurance from the two principals on what is in store for us as second-term governors after 2022,” a governor  said.

The county bosses are also concerned that the wording of the BBI report on the revenue sharing, the Equalisation Fund, and the share of functions between the two levels of government need to be improved.

The BBI has proposed increase of shareable revenue to a minimum of 35 percent from the current 15 percent, and this should be ring-fenced to specifically state that the shareable revenue be based on actual revenue on all budget lines, and not just on audited accounts.

Equalisation Fund

Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o, Mr Odinga’s ally, said governors will look into the report to “ascertain whether the recommendations that governors gave have been covered.”

“We’re interested, in particular, on how the Equalisation Fund is envisaged to synchronise with the Division of Revenue so that no county is disadvantaged,” he said, adding, monies that are still being channelled to state agencies that are performing devolved functions under Schedule Four of the Constitution “be reviewed and appropriate recommendations made.”

Mandera Governor Ali Roba, who chairs the Frontier Counties Development Council (FCDC), said they will push for the deletion of the 20-year sunset clause in the Equalization Fund, only started afresh once the funds are released to the marginalised counties. He said the region is opposed population as the only parameter in the share of revenue.

Siaya governor Cornel Rasanga said: “We have a lot of proposals that we earlier made to the BBI team. We’re going to interrogate the same issues.”

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