How Senators used devolution conference to air their grievances

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Burials are some of the most known platforms that politicians tend to change the mood and change the subject for their own political motives. Well, it seems the 6th devolution conference was not any different. Senators have renewed the push to have more powers so as to make the Senate superior to the National Assembly, as the debate on Constitutional changes gains momentum. Speaking on the third day of the devolution conference in Kirinyaga County, Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr said senators would support the referendum on condition that the Senate is strengthened. Auditor-General Edward Ouko praised the governors for showing a keen interest in implementing recommendations he made to counties.

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Governors were accused of defying summons by the Senate to answer audit queries. Mr Kilonzo told the meeting that governors are often reluctant to appear before the Senate’s Public Accounts Committee to answer questions pertaining to financial management.  “If we give counties more, you must make the Senate the Upper House. That is not negotiable because there is the possibility of creating counties that will become monsters as a result of increased funding,” he said.

He argued that devolution can be strengthened only through increased funding, and with greater oversight by the Senate. Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka also insisted that the Senate must be given more powers. “The referendum should focus on directing more resources to the counties. But as we strengthen devolution, we must also strengthen the Senate because it is the institution with the mandate to oversee devolution,” he said. In a similar manner, county assembly members revived also their push for financial autonomy to increase their capacity to oversee governors.

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County Assemblies Forum chairperson Johnson Osoi asked the Senate to enact legislation that would allow ward representatives to make financial decisions independently, citing delays in release of funds to county assemblies. County assemblies have been pushing to control their own budgets and not have the money channelled through the county executives. “Assemblies cannot, six years down the line, still rely on county executives to access their funds. The autonomy of county assemblies must be taken seriously since it is a very important issue,” Mr Osoi said.

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