17 December 2012

Kenya: Citizens Should Elect More Women - Revenue Chief

Micah Cheserem is the chair of the Commission on Revenue Allocation. He was interviewed by our writers IBRAHIM ORUKO and ELIZABETH WERE.

What is the mandate of the Commission on Revenue Allocation?

CRA's mandate is to recommend a formula for the equitable sharing of nationally raised revenues between the national government and county governments and among county governments.

The recommendations are based on a statutory provision. It is the only commission that has the legal mandate to provide revenue sharing recommendations to parliament.

CRA, CIC and the Transitional Authority are accusing the Executive of undermining the devolution process. How?

We are concerned about the Bills that are being introduced and passed by parliament. The truth is that these laws are introduced at the last minute.

There is suspicion on the true intention of these laws. Most of them seek to hijack devolution process as stipulated in Chapter 11 of the constitution.

We have seen an attempt to increase the number of referral hospitals. We have also seen attempts to restructure agriculture through the Bills that have been tabled in the House.

Yet health and agriculture are devolved functions. These may be good intentions. But why at this last minute? It may be good for the executive to wait for county governments to be established and consult on how to proceed.

What can be done to remedy this?

We need a moratorium to be put in place. The Bills should not be processed until the county governments are in place. The debate should take place with full concurrence of the county governments. Why are we hurrying? It is very suspicious.

What bottlenecks, if any, is your commission experiencing in the discharge of its constitutional mandate?

There are no bottlenecks as such. This is a new commission and it is natural to face some challenges. It is natural to have challenges, not necessarily bottlenecks.

In your opinion, do you think Kenya is ready for the devolved system of government?

Kenyans overwhelmingly endorsed the new constitution in August 2010. Devolution is the centerpiece of the constitution. Chapter 11 that deals with devolution is the heart of the constitution. Kenyans are waiting for devolution.

What plans have been made so far to make this a reality?

Everything is being done to ensure that the constitution is implemented. A lot of work has been done in the implementation process in the last two years to prepare ground for county governments and ensure that devolution becomes a reality.

Bills have been enacted and we have had discussions of revenue and county allocations. The electioneering process is ongoing through the registration of voters and I can say that everything is within the specified time schedule.

But there are concerns about the quality of these Bills...

True. They are part of our stolen change. Everything has never been smooth. In any reform process there are losers and winners. Losers try to obstruct change because they have genuine fear that reforms will destroy them completely.

We expect that the new government will try to clean the laws to make them in tandem with the spirit of reforms as part of the genuine desire to bring effective reforms.

The Supreme Court this week ruled the third Gender rule will be realised progressively. What is your comment?

The import of the ruling affects only the national assembly and the senate. Kenyans must know that the county assembly must elect women.

Kenyans must elect up to 500 women at the county assemblies failure to which the nation will have to nominate up to 750 women in those local parliaments.

We have treated our women badly when compared to other countries like Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. We are a Stone Age nation. Women have been oppressed for too long and the progressive should be 50/50 and not the one third.

The solution in the Supreme Court ruling is that we must get political parties to make the one third/two third gender rule achieved in the next general election or we get ostracised as a nation.

What is the cost implication of not electing enough women in next year's polls?

It will cost up to Sh4.013 billion per year if the gender rule is not met via elections. It will jump to Sh20 billion in the five years that cover 2013 to 2017.

The cost will get higher if we decide to nominate women instead of electing them. Besides, nominating women means that we may end up with individuals who are not politicians, and thus, cannot effectively represent their people. It is important that Kenyans elect women leaders. We are still using brute force and still believe in the power of the muscle.

The House Budget committee last week raised concerns about the failure of the executive to submit to the Budget Policy statement on time. Do you agree?

That's a lacuna the CRA saw long time ago. We canvassed the matter of the general election and the budget circle and no one listened.

In fact when the IEBC settled for March 4 as the date of the general election we warned it would be disaster for the budget circle. We are now reaping the seeds of that disaster.

We do not know what will happen. We are facing a messy transition as a result of that decision. The minister is supposed to submit to parliament his budget proposal two months before the end of the financial year.

That is in April. No one expects to have a cabinet by that date due to the intricacies of appointing individuals to public office. County governments will have to struggle through their first three months with no money.

In fact there are two very important Bills that are yet to be presented to the House by the Treasury. The first is the Division of Revenue Bill which details the vertical sharing of the resources between the national government and the county governments pursuant to Article 218 of the constitution.

There is also County Allocation Revenue Bill which details the horizontal sharing of resources among devolved governments. In short, we are staring a crisis in the face because there will be no money to start off the county governments in the absence of these bills.

Who is to blame?

MPs can only debate a Bill presented to parliament by the government. The treasury is yet to take the Bill to parliament.

As we come to the close of the voter registration process, what is your message to Kenyans and in particular those who haven't registered?

Kenyans must register as voters so that they elect leaders at all levels of government. In future voting should be made compulsory and penalty put in place for those who do not register. Kenyans need to register as voters so that they stop complaining of bad leaders.

What is your parting shot?

Kenyans must remain peaceful society at all times. The world is watching.

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