NAIROBI, KENYA: Plans to disband Transition Authority ( TA) jeopardise the delicate devolution process, which seeks to transfer power, functions and resources to the grassroots. Also at stake is close to half a million jobs if the opposition agitated by a cross-section of county governors and the national government gains currency. The latest initiative puts at risk completion of critical functions lined up to drive the devolution agenda to fruition. The key reason given for the disbandment of TA is that the institution is slow in discharging its mandate.
But the Board Chairman Kinuthia Wamwangi insists the authority’s capacity to deliver has been impaired by lack of adequate funding. The latest move follows a contentious proposal by a cross- section of county governors and the national government to disband the Authority, a critical constitutional body mandated to manage the delicate transition to the devolved system of Government.
The proposal in the Statute Law, (Miscellaneous amendment) Bill, 2013, which has attracted widespread public criticism seeks to replace TA with a technical committee, which, is an arm of the Executive. The Bill drafted by the Attorney General Githu Muigai is seen as unconstitutional with an ulterior motive of undermining devolution. It is also argued that removing TA at this point would erode gains already made in nurturing counties, which are still young and scuttle ongoing processes of establishing the necessary structures.
The Senate and civil society groups advocating for devolution have collectively rejected the scheme to split TA, saying the move will derail the transfer of government functions to counties. “These counties still require support and guidance to be fully operational,” said Wamwangi. The plan by parliamentarians to pass the Bill seeking to disband TA is instead widely viewed as undercover campaigns meant to derail development at the grassroot level.
“The Transition Authority has covered a lot of ground despite the challenges. However there is still outstanding work to be done for the authority to fully achieve its assigned mandate as per to the Devolved Government Act 2012,” said Wamwangi.
Transfer of power
“The transfer of functions was just but the beginning of devolution and we are yet to undertake the administrative transfer of staff and personal records. The citizens and the public offers are yet to understand and appreciate devolution, hence the need for continuous citizen engagement and civic education.”
Amongst key pending functions include the process of transferring the assets and liabilities of the two levels of government (County and National), a critical component of devolution that requires an impartial arbiter to midwife the process.
In the proposed amendments, the national government seeks to take advantage of grey areas in county legislation to have a bigger role in the running of regional authorities. Resource control has been a major point of departure between the two levels of governments.
Currently, the law gives TA three year period to oversee devolution, during which it will define the functions of the national and county governments, in addition to preparing assets inventories for the two sets of power. The proposed amendment being sponsored does not provide the timeframe or composition of the committee to succeed TA. Wamwangi reckons that the amendment in its form will see TA dissolved on March 4, 2016. The senate, led by Speaker Ekwe Ethuro has vowed to shoot down the Bill and instead fight for more resources to be channeled through the authority.