County Governments Amendment Bill 2015 Undermines Devolution

By George Gĩthĩnji Last updated on
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The Senate has sponsored a bill known as the County Governments Amendment Bill 2015. This Bill seeks to amend Sections 50, 51 and 52 of the County Governments Act, 2012. The significant issue about the County Governments Amendment Bill 2015 is that it intends to specify the academic qualifications for the offices of sub-county administrator, ward-administrator, and village administrator. The academic requirements for the sub-county administrator will be a degree, a diploma for the ward administrator and a secondary school certificate for the village administrator. In addition, they the positions require (technical) knowledge in matters of administration.

Limitations of the County Governments Amendment Bill 2015

The County Governments Amendment Bill 2015 will also tie the County Public Service Board (CPSB) to employ sub-county administrators, ward administrators and village administrators after every general election. This amendment raises some contentious issues.

The first issue regards the perpetuity of the positions of the sub-county administrator, ward-administrator, and village administrator. Tying the positions to every election cycle means that the (CPSB) will appoint new holders of the positions after every general election. The holders of the positions will only be eligible for a five-year term, which the County Governments Amendment Bill 2015 does not specify as renewable. They will continue holding office until the County Public Service Board appoints new ones after the elections.

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This amendment undermines the perpetuity of the county public service, which these offices are part. It ties the offices of these administrators to the life of the county executive and the county assembly. The public service or public administration in any jurisdiction should operate perpetually and independently of all the arms of government. The perpetuity of the county public service is for a reason. The county public service ensures a smooth transition and the continuation of county operations without disruption.

When new general elections approach and take place, they disrupt the normal county operations. We have elected officials at the county level dedicating their time and resources to campaigns and the elections creating a gap before the transition period into the new administration. The perpetuity of the county public service ensures that the county business does not come to a halt due to such hurdles.

Second, tying the mandates of the offices of sub-county administrator, ward-administrator, and village administrator to every election cycle will politicize these positions. That is, the positions will seem like political appointments. County Governors appoint County Executive Committee Members (county ‘ministers’) to head county departments. When the term of the governor expires, these political appointees also cease to hold office. We cannot afford to have the offices of sub-county administrator, ward-administrator, and village administrator tied to such political power play.

Politicizing the offices of sub-county administrator, ward-administrator, and village administrator will also make them less effective. These administrators are responsible for the coordination, management, and supervision of the general administrative functions in the sub-county, ward and village units respectively. In doing so, the village administrator reports to the ward administrator who reports to the sub-county administrator. The sub-county administrator then reports to the relevant county chief officer. Thus, they are essential in the perpetuity and continuity of county government ministries and functions within and after the election cycle.

Third, the County Governments Amendment Bill 2015 will interfere with the structure of the county public service. I was recently in a stakeholders meeting discussing issues regarding counties. One of the participants was a ward administrator from Nairobi County. She emphasized on the importance of these administrators being independent from political appointments and being part of the county public service. She said that the ward administrators (that extends to the sub-county and village administrators) are permanent and pensionable. The County Public Service Board competitively appoints them. She went on to say that, were they political appointees, then it would affect the transition period and continuation of the county government functions, which would result to chaos.

Lastly, the County Governments Amendment Bill 2015 will prove to be a disaster in the end. If implemented, it will become expensive and messy. It will increase the recruitment work of the County Public Service Board, increase demands for benefits, increase unemployment claims, reduce commitment to work, and lead to loss of essential experience gained by these administrators. The county governments would lose much with the constant replacements than gain from the permanent status of these positions.

Therefore, the Senate should review the County Governments Amendment Bill 2015. This will safeguard the offices of the sub-county, ward and village administrators. They should not lose their seats every election cycle just because governors and MCAs leave office. The Senate should reject this amendment without remorse. By doing so, the Senate might redeem itself from the cycle of bad laws it made in the past to undermine county governments.

George Gĩthĩnji is a political and social commentator. Twitter @EpikKenyan
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