Are MCAs the Weakest Link in the Devolution Chain?

Key Questions

1.     What holds MCAs back from serving Kenyans more effectively?

2.     What would it take for MCAs to play their role more effectively?

3.     Would MCAs perform better if they were volunteers?

Constitutional Provisions:

185 (1) The legislative authority of a county is vested in, and exercised by, its county assembly.

        (2) A county assembly may make any laws that are necessary for, or incidental to, the effective performance of the functions and exercise of the powers of the county government under the Fourth Schedule.

        (3) A county assembly, while respecting the principle of the separation of powers, may exercise oversight over the county executive committee and any other county executive organs.

        (4) A county assembly may receive and approve plans and policies for –

(a) the management and exploitation of the county’s resources 

Outline:

1.     There are 2222 Members of County Assemblies (MCAs) in Kenya. 1450 are elected, and 772 nominated.

2.     MCAs represent Kenyans at the ward level, which is the lowest level of governance in the Kenyan Constitution.

3.     The Constitution requires MCAs to perform legislative roles for effective performance of county governments.

4.     MCAs are also required to exercise oversight over county executive committees and other county executive organs.

5.     MCAs are also required to approve plans and policies related to management and exploitation of county resources, as well as development and management of county infrastructure and institutions.

6.     As representatives at the lowest administrative level, MCAs are expected to be most in touch with the needs of the people. 

7.     MCAs play a crucial role in generating solutions for the people they represent through policy and legislation.

8.     MCAs create the link between citizens and county executive committees that are responsible for the implementation and enforcement of policies and legislation.

While the Constitution allocates MCAs a critical role in county development, the performance and priorities of county assemblies have been criticised severally.

9.     The CIC report on the progress of devolution indicates the following challenges to realising the promise of devolution:

i.               Low capacity of MCAs to debate Bills and fast-track processes

ii.              Lack of commitment, demonstrated in lack of quorum in county assemblies

iii.            Low literacy levels among MCAs limiting debate on Bills leading to sub-standard legislation

iv.            Tension between county executive and county assemblies, as a result of MCAs seeking to amend budgets to suit their demands, at the expense of service delivery.

v.              Go slow by county assemblies demanding salary increments

vi.            Power struggles between governors and MCAs, reflected in the numerous threats by MCAs to impeach governors.

10.  MCA allowances, excessive travel, as well as open conflict and tension between county assemblies and county executives have been issues of public concern.

11.  In FY 2013/2014, county assemblies spent an aggregate of 24.5 Billion, out of which, 19.5 Billion funded recurrent expenditures, 1 Billion funded development activities in the form of construction of county chambers, offices, and the speaker’s house.  4 Billion was then issued to MCAs for car loans and mortgages that attract an interest of 3% p.a.

12.  In FY 2013/2014 counties allocated 3.2 Billion for the payment of sitting allowances for MCAs. 

13.  Average sitting allowance per MCA was 88,044 Kshs in FY 2013/2014. 

14.  Uasingishu county had the highest average sitting allowance of Kshs. 235,743 per MCA per month.

15.  Taita Taveta County had the lowest average monthly sitting allowance per MCA of Kshs. 15,827.

16.  Some counties such as Nyeri, Kiambu, Busia, Kwale, Migori and Machakos exceeded their MCA allowance allocations by 100% to 200%.

17.  Nyeri MCAs recently tried to approve 19 M public funds to visit the Governor who has been unwell in a hospital abroad.

Resources:

1.     Republic of Kenya (2014) Office of the Controller of Budgets, County Governments Annual budget implementation review report: FY 2013/2014 http://cob.go.ke/index.php/virtual-downloads/category/1-reports?download=97:brr-finai-annual

2.     Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (2014) Assessment of the implementation of the system of devolved government: From steps to strides. http://www.twawezacommunications.org/resources/CIC%20Assesment_Report_on_the_System_of_Devolved_Government.pdf

 

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