By Malik Mureu
The Peter Munya led Council of Governors is one of the most enviable political organization in Kenya. Kenyan governors all speak in one accord and unlike parliament, you will never hear of attacks despite belonging to opposing political affiliations. They accord their chairman total obedience and support and conduct their business with dignity and respect. Utopian you think? Well you are absolutely right.
The council of governors is a round table of landlords. It is an assembly of aristocrats who oversee expenditure of a substantial part of the total national revenue amounting to over Kshs 300Billion. They also administer hundreds of millions of locally generated revenue. I would see no reason to write this article if all was well in the devolved units in which the governors rule. As I write a total 8 governors are under investigation for fiscal impropriety.
Devolution was meant to deliver better livelihoods to the doorsteps of Kenyans. Those who didn’t have food then that took priority. Communities who were facing infant mortality, epidemics and apathy should have prioritized healthcare in their county budget. Farmers without access to markets due to poor infrastructure should have benefited from access roads and bridges being constructed. Lack of water for subsistence and farming should have driven governors to prioritize the sinking of boreholes, wells, pans and dams.
The truth of the matter is that in the majority of our county governments, well above 50% of the total budgets was allocated for salaries, allowances, gratuities and other recurrent expenditure leaving development as a by the way. The fraudulent allocation of tenders has led to stalling of majority of projects due to incompetence, poor planning and inadequate funding. The hiring of employees through nepotism, coercion and political appeasement has denied the county governments much needed talent and innovativeness that would have gone far in realizing the dream of devolution.
Truth be told amidst graft allegation and threats of impeachment that have been thrown at the governors, a few of them have fought tooth and nail against all odds to deliver services to their people. One wonders where these governors seek funding from since the common excuse on the streets is that the national government isn’t allocating enough monies to the counties! The few performing governors have proven that talent and willpower are as rare as common sense. The poor performers have embraced mediocrity in their work, pomposity in their gait and aloofness of purpose.
Members of County Assemblies have played a big role in turning devolution into a reality. However they have equally been blamed for the rot that festers in the county governments. Through threats to the executive, they have pushed to be awarded tenders, employment for their kin, allowances, ‘bench marking’ trips etc. interfering heavily with the professionalism expected from the county governments. Many governors have given in to the demands of MCAs colluding to defraud Kenyans of better livelihoods.
The truth is if supply bills were not inflated and all monies directed to the intended purpose, then the monies allocated by national government would be sufficient to achieve remarkable progress in devolution. Sadly the National government is equally guilty of perpetuating impropriety by design or default. The President is on record castigating civil servants including from his own office for being corrupt. In 2015 he declared corruption a national security threat enabling the convergence of a multi-agency effort that has seen senior officers fired, more cases in court, assets recovered and generally a stepped up effort in fighting graft.
The opulence and swagger displayed by governors during the funeral of the late Nyeri governor caught the nation’s attention. In the midst of widespread national distress heralded by the lack of rains, the governors arrived in choppers and shiny suits to bid goodbye to a fallen comrade. A common joke goes that gentlemen don’t talk with food in their mouth; could this be the reason the congregation of governors opts to eat in silence?