As the Referendum Craze Rages On, What Should Kenyans Consider Before Voting?

By Isaac Korir / October 9, 2018



vote

The talk is raging. It is on everyone’s lips now and as it would seem, Kenya might be forced to sit down and scrutinize specific sections of the constitution with the sole purpose of reducing the number of leaders representing the citizens.

The debate is for a good cause because it is clear, we are over-represented. First off, we have 47 Governors and their deputies, then the same number of senators, followed by another lot, the MCAs. Currently, there are 1450 elected and 772 nominated MCAs bringing the total number to 2,222.

Kenya’s National Assembly has a total of 349 seats, 290 of these are the leaders elected from the constituencies. Then we have 47 women elected from the counties and 12 nominated representatives. Why do we need all these leaders?

As you sit to ponder that, there are other important things that need to be addressed first. We sure can reduce all these numbers but by what percentage? There is also another bottleneck; although devolution has been termed by others as an entity that brought corruption closer home, we can all agree that there is a brighter side to it. So, is there a need for its disruption?

Meanwhile, we are looking to reduce the size of the government but is that all we need from the referendum? The move is entirely possible, but let us not forget the real reason we are calling for it in the first place lest the same leaders we are looking to tackle use it for their own gains.

One wrong move and the referendum could prove to be costlier than anticipated. This is especially the case if what will be pushed for is the creation of new positions, primarily the top positions.

What we need to retain are those posts that fuel economic development, the kind of positions that a country cannot do without. The rest, which has been construed as hubs for breeding corruption should be done away with.

Women representatives, for instance, seem to be oblivious of what they are supposed to do. Whether you agree or not, there is a point. Majority of them cannot account or tell what disbursed funds were used for!

Speaking of which MCAs, on the other hand, are the worst. They make up most of the positions in the county level and are a bunch of individuals who imagine that they are power and law the counties need.

Since their role is important, we may not get rid of them entirely but we can reduce their numbers. MCAs approve county budgets and expenditure. They also provide guidance on the county government borrowing, make enforcement laws for the county government alongside vetting and approving nominees for appointment to county public offices.

Often, when these leaders are misbehaving, they lose credibility in their positions. There are several instances where the MCAs have ended up hurling furniture and resorting to punches to try and prove a point. Admittedly, they have taken the counties administrators hostage forcing governors to avoid their confrontation for fear of being impeached.

The same MCAs cry foul and make it hard for budget approvals for crucial projects to pass if their hefty allowances are interfered with in any way. Unfortunately, their approval of budgets has been utilized by the same individuals to embezzle development funds for their personal gains. Need I say they are draining lots of cash for bench-marking purposes and other activities that don’t help the common Mwananchi in any way?

Questions we need to ask ourselves are, do we choose senators or MCAs? Should we merge some leadership positions for our counties to continue reaping the benefits of devolution? Should we reduce the number of counties and reconsider the Bomas Draft with the suggestion of 14 counties, or do we retain the former provinces as counties? Most importantly, can these positions be reduced and re-position Kenya well in terms of economy?

We need a clear picture, a strategy to follow as the guiding principle as we debate about the referendum. Gone are the days of saying, “Baba alisoma hiyo katiba na akasema iko sawa.” Ignorance is no longer bliss, it is costly. It is one of the reasons the current government is too expensive. The sustainable goals we were so enthusiastic about are eating into our pockets because of heavy borrowing and flawed funding strategies.

The call should be focused on trimming levels of expenses to match the tax revenues because, at the moment, the cost-benefit analysis of various implemented projects and more to come doesn’t add up.

The debt burden to the common citizen is too much. The debt to revenue ratio, which is directly affected by over-representation and its expenditure, is the reason why the country’s debt is at unsustainable levels. Statistics show that in the 2017/2018 financial year, approximately 658 billion shillings will be paid to service loans.

It would be much easier if the government didn’t have many positions to sustain. It doesn’t have to go into debt to pay the MCAs or other positions. We wouldn’t have to face debt issues if self-sustainability was not a problem and until this issue is amended, well, it will be more than a hard knock life for Kenyans.





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