The Star (Nairobi)

16 August 2013

Kenya: Impunity and Greed Devolved to Counties

opinion

The sorry tale of governors we recently elected to devolve services to our villages is a sad one. Kenyans are beginning to question the wisdom of having devolved the government so soon after the elections. Perhaps this is God's way of punishing an electorate that never learns from its past mistakes.

The root cause of the early rot we are seeing in our counties lies in the fact that at all levels of government; there was no credible election right from the party primaries. Election malpractices by all parties were the order of the day. Party owners chose to plant their cronies in positions of power at the expense of democracy. They sacrificed democracy at the altar of mediocrity. And now, through the governors, CMAs and MPs we are reaping the fruits of that mediocrity.

However, before we even condemn governors, let us turn our attention to that august house that calls itself the National Assembly.

When it opened its doors to the first business of the day, we saw greed in its raw form. And for the first time we saw a different side of politicians. They are only divided in the quest for state power but united in greed. During the debate on their salaries, it was difficult to distinguish between Jubilee and Cord MPs. In fact Cord MPs were more militant in their support for the Leader of Majority than the Jubilee legislators. Ripping the treasury was a life and death assignment for some of them especially the new MPs.

When Madam Serem succumbed to the demands of MPs with assistance from William Ruto, the floodgates were open. Suddenly teachers, doctors, County Assembly Representations and university lecturers joined in the band wagon. MPs had proved to them that there was cash to be dished out. As the saying goes, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. To put it better, every action is bound to have a ripple effect which can either be positive or negative.

When William Ruto went to arm twist Sarah Serem to give the MPs their demands, one hopes he anticipated the consequences.

The governors' case is a unique tragic realization for Kenyans. When Kenyans fought tooth and nail to have a constitution with devolved governments, they were tired of biased distribution of national resources. They were tired of an all powerful presidency. They were tired of greedy MPs who only minded their personal aggrandizement. They thought the devolved governments would take them to Canaan. They were wrong all the way. Now the reality is dawning on some counties that they might have jumped from the frying pan to the fire itself.

In Kenya, everything seems to be going wrong with the devolution. If mandarins of the National government are not busy sabotaging the process, the chairman of the Transitional Authority seems visibly lost most of the time. In fact by merely looking at the TA Chairman, one wonders where he was fished from. He doesn't inspire any confidence among the people he is supposed to assist through the transition.

In the run up to the March 4 elections, there were so many discussions about the type of people that counties should elect as governors. The advice was to elect people with business background in the private sector, those that had experience in handling enterprises. It was the reason Evans Kidero became attractive to the people of Nairobi and Cyprian Awiti was thought to be a suitable candidate for Homa Bay.

However, as horse trading reached its peak among political parties, suspected drug lords, corrupt civil servants and disgraced officials in their former lives emerged from the wood works and presented themselves to party bosses as the right and suitable candidates. These mandarins did not come to party leaders empty handed. They masqueraded as the real party supporters with the requisite resources to help party leaders win elections.

In the end we ended up with some former permanent secretaries and ambassadors who had embezzled public funds for decades in the Central government. And when they saw the billions allocated from the treasury to their counties their adrenalin shot up many times over.

They hurriedly put together budgets that had nothing to do with devolved services but rather for their personal grandeur.

Suddenly the talk of the town was the governor's palatial home, grand office block, and top of the range fuel guzzlers for top officers, millions of shillings in allowances and pornography campaigns for the governor. Millions more were set aside for several trips abroad and retreats to the Coast for the governor and his cabinet and of course a retinue of handlers. Suddenly some governors had moved in to hotels with their families for all sorts of reason. While some moved in as they waited for their palatial homes to be built or renovated, others moved it to attend petition cases against them.

The era of the gravy train was indeed with us in our counties. It would be awhile before Kenyans rose up against this blatant greed that has been devolved to our counties.

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