The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) has launched a fresh bid to re-introduce regional governments and the post of executive prime minister in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report. The two proposals have become key talking points in the ongoing BBI consultative forums, particularly in Kakamega and Mombasa, which are under ODM governors.
The Raila Odinga-led party had proposed the introduction of 14 regional governments and assemblies as well as the adoption of a parliamentary system led by a powerful PM.
The proposal to repeal the County Governments Act 2012 and replace it with the Devolved Governments Act and Regional Public Service Boards Act was submitted to the BBI task force, but it was not considered in the report that was launched at the Bomas of Kenya last year.
But following the extension of the BBI team’s mandate, the Orange party is seeking to reintroduce the controversial views for consideration.
The task force, which is chaired by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji, is expected to come up with a final document after listening to more public views.
This final report will determine whether the country will hold a referendum to amend the Constitution.
At the weekend, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho led Coast county bosses in pushing for the creation of regional governments.
In the proposal, Kilifi, Lamu and Tana River counties will form the Upper Coast Region while Taita Taveta, Mombasa, Kwale counties will form part of the Lower Coast Region.
Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya had also rallied western Kenya governors in championing for this third layer of governance.
“We want to strengthen devolution and I have seen here in the Coast you have resolved that you want regional governments. Even us in western Kenya want regional governments,” Mr Oparanya said during the Mombasa meeting.
Yesterday, ODM chairman John Mbadi said the party will not shy away from pushing for reforms it believes in.
Mr Mbadi said that every Kenyan has been given an opportunity to share their views about the report and propose amendments.
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“The BBI report was released so that we can make further contributions. There is no mischief; we are just being open about our position,” said Mbadi.
He claimed that regional governments would make more economic sense compared to the current governance structure.
“If more roles are handed to the regional governments, this will cut down recurrent expenditure. The counties should be reduced to service delivery centres as opposed to the heavy government structure we currently have.”
In a resolution read by Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi, the Coast governors proposed the establishment of a federal system of government while retaining the 47 county governments.
“Funding allocated to the regional and county governments should take up 70 per cent of the national government revenue,” said Mr Kingi.
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The region is also pushing for the creation of a premier’s post with two deputies.
“To ensure that all regions sit in the highest decision-making table, we propose expansion of the Executive by providing for a president, deputy president, prime minister, and two deputies.
“These positions added to the two speakers in the Senate and the National Assembly, Chief Justice and the Attorney General make up nine top positions in the country. It is our recommendation that these nine positions are shared equally among the regions,” read the resolution.
Mbadi and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi said ODM’s position on a parliamentary system of government still stands.
“Our position is parliamentary, but we have no issue with a hybrid system. What we want is balance of power between the president and prime minister,” said Mbadi.
He continued: “We want a prime minister with responsibilities and sufficient powers, but make it clear who is supreme. The president can still have more powers to avoid two centres of power.”
Mr Wandayi said voters wanted a premier who would share power with the president and not an appointee as captured in the BBI document.
“We are simply validating our views and it should be clear that the views are not just coming from ODM but from across the political divide. Kenyans want a prime minister who will share powers with president.”
The Unguja MP said there was no difference between what was proposed in the BBI report and the current system where the president wields sweeping powers.
He also voiced support for the formation of regional governments and dismissed claims that taxpayers would be overburdened.
“We need to dispel the myth that the problems of this country stem from the number of leadership positions. The problem we have is corruption. As chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, I can attest that a lot of money is lost through corruption and not in salaries.”
But not all politicians are enthusiastic about the regional fiefdoms.
“People are free to share their views, but my position on the matter is if we can strengthen devolution in its current form by ensuring more resources to the 47 counties, then a third tier of government is unnecessary. It will create additional bureaucracy and overburden Kenyans,” said Ford Kenya Secretary General Eseli Simiyu.
Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr also warned that regional governments “will overburden a system that is grappling with lack of resources and lead to unnecessary bureaucracy at the counties.”
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