Opposition leader Raila Odinga has called for a review of the structure of devolution.
Mr Odinga, who rallied the country to support the building bridges to the New Kenyan Nation Initiative agreed upon between him and President Uhuru Kenyatta on March 9, said most of the 47 counties were uneconomical entities.
He has proposed the establishment of a three-tier government as one of the ways of finding lasting solutions to the problem posed by the sizes of the devolved economies.
“The Bomas Draft Constitution divided Kenya into 14 regions, each made up of several districts. The intention was to create units with the size and population that made them economically viable,” Mr Odinga said when he delivered the keynote address to the Fifth Annual Devolution Conference at Kakamega School on Wednesday.
He added: “There is need for the country to adopt a three-tier system that retains the current counties, creates regional governments and retains the national government, to create units with the size and population that are economically viable.”
Under the draft, the district was the principle of devolution while the role of the regional governments was to coordinate the implementation, within the districts, of programmes and projects that extend across or more regions.
Mr Odinga’s sentiments are in line with the position of his National Super Alliance (Nasa) following the protracted, high-stakes elections in 2013 and 2017. The coalition has argued that the time is ripe for Kenyans to reconsider the Bomas Draft document.
Last month, Mr Odinga, Mr Musalia Mudavadi and Mr Moses Wetang’ula agreed at a meeting in Nairobi to revive the debate on the draft. The leaders believe the draft is the best guide to end political conflicts blamed on the winner-take-all system.
“The Bomas Draft contains cures to the problems of inclusion, strengthening of devolution, the shape of the Executive, and security sector reforms,” Nasa leaders said in March.
The coalition has pushed for the country to adopt a parliamentary system of government whose structure of executive would include an elected president and a deputy. It also has an appointed prime minister, who will head the Cabinet.
The draft was altered drastically before it was subjected to a referendum in 2005, leading to the rejection of the final document.
The independence Constitution was changed in a 2010 referendum — ushering in a purely presidential system that was grudgingly accepted by Mr Odinga and his team.
On Wednesday, Mr Odinga said time had come for the country to look at how to recover this original spirit even as he encouraged the counties to explore the formation of economic blocs to address some of the challenges facing them.
“I laud the formation of the 14-county Lake Region Economic Bloc and appeal to the county assemblies to pass legislations to aid the realisation of the bloc.
I encourage all counties that are exploring such formations to soldier on,” Mr Odinga said. However, the opposition leader challenged the national government to help counties with transaction advisers and undertake capacity building functions in line with the Inter-Governmental Relations Act.
He cited access to external funding in counties with the national government as an intermediary, given the transfer of functions in line with Schedule Four of the Constitution, as an area that must be looked into sooner rather than later.
He insisted that the national government must be ready to provide the necessary back up when counties take investment initiatives for employment and wealth creation. Mr Odinga said that the first five years of devolution witnessed enormous constraints in taking initiatives for investments in the counties.
He identified the implementation of the government’s Big Four Agenda – Food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and affordable healthcare – as a challenge to the devolved units and warned governors to ensure that their implementation neither undermine devolution nor result in duplication and conflict.
He wondered how the governors would implement their manifestos in an environment where the Big Four agenda includes devolved functions.
Mr Odinga further called on the State to review the relationship between regional authorities like Lake Basin Development Authority, Coast Development Authority, Tana and Athi Development authorities and the county and national governments and help counties resolve boundary disputes.
On corruption in the counties, the ODM leader said the March 9 MoU with President Kenyatta prioritises making counties deliver to the people and also identifies corruption as a threat to the country.
“The President and I are agreed that we must fight corruption from a wide and common front. We shall not provide sanctuaries for perpetrators of corruption. We will strongly support whistleblowing from all Kenyans,” he said.