IS DEVOLUTION A CURSE OR A BLESSING TO ISIOLO COUNTY?
Devolution as enshrined in the constitution has heralded a revolutionary system of governance that has enhanced locals’ participation in decision making on matters affecting them, service delivery and development. Kenyans including the people of Isiolo who have been marginalized by previous centralized regimes of governance eagerly waited for the benefits of the county government.
To the people of Isiolo and many other Kenyans devolution promises a solution to correct deficiencies in the post independence governance framework, which was premised upon the highly centralized system of governance and an end to marginalization. The constitution thus created institutions to safeguard and protect devolution to ensure its objectives and principles are achieved. The Senate is one key institution created to protect devolution pursuant to the provision of the Constitution of Kenya, Article 96(1) which Kenyans overwhelmingly voted for. After the 2013 general election, Isiolo County elected its Senator and fortunately it was also rewarded with a nominated senator notwithstanding the entire electoral was a sham. Nonetheless, in a strange twist of turns, the expectations of the people turned nightmarish. Ostensibly some are asking whether it is becoming a curse or a blessing.
Currently, devolution in Isiolo County is at risk due to a multiplicity of problems bedeviling it. We are facing new marginalization under the incompetent and myopic administration at the helm of the county. While monies/ resources and powers have been devolved to the counties, Isiolo County is among the least funded as per the revenue allocation formula by the CRA. However, even the little we received was and is not properly planned on and utilized leading to an amount of Kshs. 251 million being returned to the treasury. Corruption, nepotism, impunity and abuse of office are inherent characteristics of the leadership of Isiolo County. This situation has led to the people being shortchanged. Evidently the projects by the county government are confined to Isiolo town and peri-urban areas which only forms 4% of the total land mass, because 96% of the land forms the interior rural which are viable and reclaimed for farming agro-pastoralism.
The Isiolo abattoirs project in which leaders are colluding to enrich themselves with the project which is still incomplete costing the tax payer up to Kshs. 600 million conservatively speaking. This situation is replicated across the projects by the 18 months old county government. The voice of reason has failed to prevail as the people are not involved in a structured manner in governance as stipulated in the Constitution of Kenya, Article 10 (2, (a))
The county assembly is in a class of its own in pettiness and absconding duty. As state officers they earn tax payer’s money while not delivering service to the people. The assembly lacks secretariat and staff and attempts to hire staff was frustrated by County officials by either scuttling interview process or outcomes by locking down the venues using security agencies. The House couldn’t sit for the last four months due to lack of quorum or inaccessibility of the premises which is supervised by the County Secretary and enforced by County Security officials. This is because of the persistent anarchy and acute suspension of the rule of law. The Governor has sworn to ensure that the assembly will not work as long as the speaker who is currently in office vacates, until such a time that he gets a speaker of his own whom he can arm-twist the way he wants. This is not withstanding the fact that the speaker is in office subject to the order of the court and constitutionally is not supposed to be a henchman for the Governor or an errand boy for that matter.
The judiciary is a fundamental arm of the government as it’s the custodian and keeper of the Constitution that even brought in place the very county government. It is the same judiciary that same sections of the Isiolo county MCAs and government officials are showing disrespect and treating it with contempt. The people’s expectation is that the wheels of justices will catch up with them. The county has been reduced to a police state or ‘a mock of a county’ with the suspension of the rule of law, anarchy is ruling.
The role of oversight, checks and balances the Assembly is supposed to play is no longer possible in Isiolo. This is so because the MCA’s have been compromised and an important committee like PAC and PIC has never sat and rolled out its operational mechanisms. The same applies to the leadership of the budget and appropriations committee who are deeply embroiled in the fight with the Speaker of the County. To my utter dismay, a larger section of the County Assembly deliberately refused to pass Isiolo County Appropriations Act owing to the fact that, they were advised by the Governor not to pass it while disregarding the implications of their actions on the common ‘Mwanainchi’
I am appealing to the relevant government agencies to rescue Isiolo as it is reeling under darkness and shame of a leadership full of itself. Official government vehicles are deliberately clamped down, the offices of the county government is under lock, chain and key as police and rangers armed to the teeth keep vigil. The public cannot basic access services from the office. This controversy of locking down public office opens a hole into how Kshs 61 Million set aside for the Governor’s office was misused and even as I speak the Governor is housed in the Assembly building. Up to now the county has not passed a single piece of legislation even the symbols, emblems bill. Lest you forget, bills are generated by the Executive organ of the county. Key constitutional creations in devolution like the county public service board have been sidelined in the management of the County human resource by the Executive arm of the County Government
The Governor flies in a chopper because the roads are impassable and insecure; ironically when he lands he incites the people as he goes there to fight his perceived and imaginary political opponents. To add injury to insult the chopper is hired by the County government. The handlers of the Governor say that his word is final but methinks it must be within the contexts of the law and established due process. The county secretary has been issuing out appointment letters left, right and centre in gross violation of the law which tantamount to abuse of office.
The procurement policy of the county governments is skewed in favour of the Governor’s cronies and outsiders who are even not members of the Isiolo community, much worse it is shrouded in mystery and secrecy. This contravenes Public Procurement and Disposal Acts, 2012 and County Government Act section 87(a-g). This leads to single sourcing and lack of accountability on the resources received from development partners like the tractors and furniture received from Turkey in which purportedly the Country government still went ahead and withdrew from the County Government coffer for the same donated items. This goes against the whole idea and spirits of devolution which his supposed to trickle down resources and benefits to the local people. The 30% percent policy on contracts award for the marginalized people is not adhered to in Isiolo County.
It is my humble submission that the political class in this County cannot tackle glaring discrepancies as there is a show of over blotted ego centrism, clan chauvinism and grand corruption that is shaping the discourse. I therefore, appeal to the other oversight authorities, like the, The House of Senate, Ethics and Anti- corruption Commission, Auditor- Controller General, Transition Authority, Ministry of Devolution and the office of the Ombudsman to step in through structured methods and save this baby County not being thrown out with bath water.