Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Be careful what you wish for.

Those whom the gods wish to punish, they answer their prayers.
The push-and-pull over whether the National Government is implementing devolution faithfully is misplaced. Devolution fails or succeeds on how ell the 47 men elected as governors perform. They have, so far, and in concert with their Senators, fucked it up six ways to hell. All, bar none, came to office with a misguided sense that they were akin to Governors in the United States, with "constitutions" of their own, "federal powers" and authority to "raise revenues" as they saw fit. They are not, have not and do not. Counties, regardless of the lofty title, are glorified local authorities and governors are no better than mayors or council chairmen. No more. In fact the only governor who recognises this as his true position is the governor of Nairobi City County. Rather than accompany his party leader to the United States, where he could not possibly draw the proper lessons, he accompanied the head of State to the Middle Kingdom, where he probably would.

Kenya's devolution structure may contain the nomenclature popularised by the United States and India; in reality, it is very similar to that of the People's Republic, minus the overweening central government. Counties cannot "tax" in the traditional sense; whatever revenue they raise by "borrowing" must be approved by the National Government. As must all their expenditure plans, lest these endanger the national economy. Counties do not have police services of their own, the nearest being their "inspectorates" that are not akin to the disciplined police. They have no impact on foreign policy or National Economic policy except as followers rather than pace-setters. Perhaps Nairobi City and Mombasa may one day, because of the local revenues they will generate, rise to the level of national pace-setters on political, economic and foreign policy. That day, sadly, is not today.

The relationship between the counties and the Senate remains tentative. Governors are not sure that the hyenas their counties sent to Nairobi have the balls to do the right thing when it comes to devolution; the Senators, on the other hand, think that they left their counties in the hands of complete morons incapable of managing money or personnel in a responsible manner. It is why governors feel more comfortable striking individual deals with the National Government, especially with the National Executive, rather than pursuing the more long-term-oriented Senate path, where more or less permanent legislation will secure their positions and the Senate is attempting to bolster its prestige by raiding the Constitution for non-existent additional powers and functions. The National Executive, of course, has taken advantage of the situation.

When the Senate and the governors begged, piteously, for the full transfer of functions, the National Executive pretended to hem and haw before, in one fell swoop, doing just that. Then it pushed the Senate and the governors into a harebrained scheme to amend the Constitution. Without the benefit of guidance, both the Senate and the Governors will come to a bad end because of their iniquitous greed. All, when their backs are to the wall, will admit that counties are in no position to perform all the functions enumerated in the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution; they can barely account for the limited functions that had been performed by the former local authorities. Nairobi City and Mombasa can barely afford to pay their workers. If the full transfer of functions is accomplished before the counties are ready to perform the functions, or ready to properly manage the resources that will accompany those functions, this might be the catalyst for serious constitutional amendments that end with the extinction of devolution as we know it, the expunging of county governments from the Constitution for all eternity, and the unlamented death of the Senate.

1 comment:

Brian O'Neil, Gentleman and Scholar said...

I like your style in this piece sir. Rather than lead with an extreme hook to entice the reader, you end with the cataclysmic warning of the collapse of the entire political system. It cements the importance of the subject matter and makes the reader want to tune in for your next note.