By Thomas Mukhwana and Tracy Bonareri

As we gear up for the elections slated for August 9, 2022, do we have all the information needed to make the right choices at the ballot. Which begs the questions, does the electorate know the number of elective positions there are? The roles the people elected to fill these positions will play in this decentralised government?

Know Your Candidate
Know Your Candidate

The 2010 constitution created a decentralised system of government where the legislature and executive arms of government were devolved into the 47 counties. This created the six elective positions outlined in IEBC’s handbook on elective positions; The President, Member of the National Assembly, Governor, Senator, County Woman Member of the National Assembly and Member of County Assembly. Kenya practises representative democracy and the six are the proxies who exercise the electorate’s sovereign power at the national and county level.

The roles of the 1450 Members of County Assembly are outlined in the County Governments Act, 2012. MCAs monitor and play an oversight role in the counties. They maintain close contact with the electorate and consult with them on issues under discussion in the County Assembly. They then present the views, opinions and proposals of the electorate during sessions and committees of the County Assembly. They also provide a linkage between the county assembly and the electorate on public service delivery. County Governments provide public services like health, agriculture, water and pre-primary education. A conversation with incumbent Mlango Kubwa MCA Patricia Mutheu clearly explains the oversight and legislative role the MCAs play.

My Candidate - Elective Positions
Elective Positions in Kenya – Find Out who you can vote for here.

“We are the whistle-blowers in the counties. We legislate by ensuring equity in how county governments share resources and play the role of oversight by ensuring the county executive implements county policies in an efficient way. Implementation lies with the executive.”

The county executive is made up of the governor, the deputy governor and CEC members appointed by the governor and approved by the County Assembly. So when funds for bursaries are not disbursed, MCAs are not to blame. The executive is also responsible for implementation of the Ward Development Fund programs and projects. MCAs are responsible for mobilising the residents in their respective wards to identify priority projects each financial year, they then come in to monitor and evaluate post-implementation by the executive. Patricia Mutheu reveals that her ward did not receive any funds for this financial year.
“We did not receive any money. Irregularities were cited in the document presented therefore it was never implemented. Public participation is critical when we (MCAs) are identifying priority projects.”

At the Senate elected members are tasked with formulating laws for the county government as per Article 110 of the constitution. They participate in oversight of state officers and ensure integrity of public office. They have the final vote of the impeachment of the President, the deputy President and Governors in accordance with Article 145 and Article 181 of the constitution respectively. On matters of finance, senators play a role in revenue sharing and oversee expenditure by counties. Once every five years, the Senate is to determine the basis for equitable share among counties in accordance with Article 217 of the constitution. Approving the formula is a joint function between the Senate and National Assembly. Senators can amend the revenue-sharing formula anytime but should seek approval from the National Assembly. After counties get their respective share senators are then tasked to ensure the funds are put to the use they were intended for. The county executive is summoned before various Senate Committees to account for funds disbursed to the counties.

At the top of the food chain we have the president. Once elected he/she becomes the symbol of national unity. According to the handbook on elective positions published by the IEBC, the president is supposed to promote and enhance the unity of the nation and also promote respect and diversity of the people and the communities of Kenya. On matters of security he is the commander in chief of the Kenya Defence Forces, he chairs the national security council, ensures the protection of human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, he also safeguards the sovereignty of the Republic. The president also nominates and with approval of The National Assembly appoints or dismisses cabinet secretaries, the attorney general, the secretary to the cabinet, principal secretaries, ambassadors and high commissioners. After appointment he is also responsible for chairing cabinet meetings.

Just as a president chairs cabinet meetings with cabinet, so does a county governor in his county. However, this time the meeting is composed of county executive committee members, all appointed by the governor after approval by the county assembly. Despite being an elective role, a governor performs elective functions. “The governor is the chief executive officer of the county. He/she implements projects, plans, suggests policy and expenditure through the county assembly,” poet and constitution lawyer Bobby Mkangi elucidates.

It is the governor who manages funds allocated to the county as per the provisions by the County Revenue Allocation Bill through the county treasury. Devolved functions such as health are funded by the county government using these resources as per the county budget.
The county executive committee is to the county what the cabinet is at the national level. Members of the committee assist the governor in the implementation of his policies within the county. As Bobby Mkangi notes, “It’s an incessant theme in the constitution that executive authority both at national and county levels should be collegially executed by a team.”

Devolution Explained - Elective Positions in the County Government
Devolution Explained – Elective Positions in the National and County Government. Find out who you can vote for here.

Members of the National Assembly (Members of Parliament) are 290 in total, each representing a constituency that elected them to represent their interests in the National Assembly. Their primary role is to represent their constituents at the National Assembly. As lawmakers, members of parliament pass, amend and formulate laws that govern the country. As part the oversight arm of government, members of the national assembly act as the buffer between the executive and absolute power. Members of the National Assembly hold the executive accountable for its decisions by ensuring that all policies are in the interest of the larger population.

In their constituencies, members of parliament manage the Constituency Development Funds (CDF) deposited into the Constituency Fund Account. According to the National Government Constituency Development Fund Act 30 of 2015, the Constituency Development Fund Committee shall within the first year in office convene open forum public meetings in every ward in the constituency to educate the public on development matters. Constituency Development Funds are disbursed before being deposited into constituency accounts, and there’s structures around ensuring that these funds are not redirected to other projects unaccounted for by the committee.

Projects catered for in CDF funds are constituency-specific in quantity and include bursaries and others such as construction of learning and sanitary facilities within the constituency. On the efficiency of the yearly CDF allocations, Bobby Mkangi notes, “In areas where it works well, wananchi really benefit through improving infrastructure. The most visible thing is you’ll see school buildings, classrooms and sanitary facilities for schools. Some constituencies have gone on to do considerably big projects such as medium-size bridges.”

On the other hand, more often than not, parliamentarians use these funds on what Bobby Mkangi calls flagship projects – projects they signal as their own to seek public approval while to get re-elected. A common sight is a member of parliament opening a facility a few weeks before the election to appeal to his constituents.

A question that is commonly asked is, who does the common mwananchi go to in case of a grievance such as that of the lack of roads? A question we posed to lawyer Bobby Mkangi who says that constitutionally, all representatives should be accessible to the common mwananchi. Facilities should be in place to enhance communication between electorates and their representatives but politicians have increasingly used social media and personal assistants as communication avenues.

A Woman Member of the National Assembly, most commonly referred to as the Women Representative is an elective seat within the county. Women elected into this position sit in the national assembly and have similar roles as that of members of parliament. The legislative function of an ordinary parliamentarian, the oversight role of a member of the national assembly and representing a constituency. But in this case, a county is considered a constituency. Making a total of 47 women members of the national assembly, each representing a constituency.

Woman Members of National Assembly came as a result of an attempt at affirmative action to cater for the deficiency of women representation in the National Assembly. Article 97 & 98 of the 2010 constitution make provisions for this. Once elected into parliament, the 47 parliamentarians, Bobby Mkangi clarifies, “Look at their role with a keener interest in representing women issues.”

The role comes with an allocation from the budget namely the National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF). Speaking to Africa Uncensored, Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) programme coordinator Mercy Mwangi revealed that the exchequer allocated 7M for NGAAF projects in the last budget. A stark difference compared to the 100M set aside for CDF projects in the 2022/23 budget.

A Woman
Voting in Kenya – Photo by DW.

According to lawyer Bobby Mkangi, the efficiency of Kenya’s constitution is entirely dependent on us all. “Its success or failure is dependent on the actions of the agents.” But if it appears inefficient presently, where do we go wrong? “The unwilling body is the agent. Looking at how we vote, we still agree to be mobilised around our tribal lines,” Bobby Mkangi opines. On the bright side, “It’s become a very essential tool of governance in Kenya. As much as we are flaunting it left right and centre, everyone is still holding it premium and referring to it always,” he adds.

Most of these positions come with annual budget allocations, creating an incentive for corruption and misuse of resources. Therefore, electing shrewd leaders with integrity is incredibly important. Now you know all their roles, vote wisely.

Find Out Who You Can Vote For Here.

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