Kenya: BBI - Concerns Over the High Cost of Managing Government

President Uhuru Kenyatta (centre) in a show of unity with Deputy President William Ruto (left) and ODM leader Raila Odinga, during the launch of the BBI report at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on November 27, 2019 (file photo).
22 October 2020

Kenyans will be required to dig deeper into their pockets to finance an expanded executive and the looming constitutional referendum amid the Covid-19 economic downturn.

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report unveiled in Kisii County Wednesday proposes to significantly alter the system of government from a pure presidential to a hybrid structure and increase the number of MPs in the National Assembly from the current 416 to 454.

The report proposes the expansion of the executive to introduce the post of a Prime Minister and two deputies as well as that of Leader of Opposition.

"Apart from creation of the Prime Minister post, Kenyans supported the establishment of the office of Leader of the Opposition with a shadow cabinet. Stakeholders stressed that the office should be provided with adequate financial and technical support to enable it to effectively discharge its role of holding the government to account," the report states.

BBI also proposes the introduction of the independent office of the Judiciary Ombudsman, who shall sit on the Judicial Service Commission. If approved, a County Ward Development Fund set to be governed by a parliamentary statute will also be created while the national government will have to increase its shareable resources to counties from 15 per cent to 35 per cent of the last audited accounts.

A Health Services Commission will also be established to make recommendations to the government on policies for management of health workers. The National Assembly membership will increase from 349 to 360 while the Senate shall have 94 elected members up from the current 67; one man and one woman elected in each of the 47 counties. The county woman rep seats and all the nominative slots in the National Assembly (12) and Senate (20) will, however, be abolished.

The BBI seeks to comply with the elusive gender rule outlined in Articles 27 (8) and 81 (b) of the Constitution, which provides that not more than two-thirds of membership in appointive and elective public bodies shall be of the same gender.

The BBI report however, goes against the recommendations of the September 2016 socio-economic audit report on the 2010 constitution by the working group chaired by immediate former Auditor-General Edward Ouko.

The audit team was formed on the basis that the cost of implementing the 2010 constitution is too high, and that the country is running a very expensive government that will be difficult to maintain.

This called for constitutional amendments to reduce the size of government.

"The concern over what some see as the expansion of government or increased costs of running the government on account of the constitution informs much of this debate. There is concern that a growing public wage bill will crowd out resources for the development budget, and by that affect economic growth," the report states.

The budget of the national executive-ministries, department, and agencies had increased by 21 percent from Sh1.011 billion in 2013/14 to Sh1.461 billion in 2015/16.

This translates to every Kenyan contributing, on average, slightly over Sh25,000 per year, or about Sh2,083 per month, to support the running of the national executive.

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