Linda Kavuka: What Kenya Needs Is Less Number Of Representatives

The efforts of activists, members of the civil society and freedom fighters in their own right were finally realized in 2010, when Kenya held a referendum and promulgated the Constitution of Kenya 2010. The country had experienced imperial presidency for over two decades and the aim of the constitution, among other reforms was to shift powers from the presidency to other authorities like Parliament and the Judicial Service Commission.The Constitution provided for, among others, enhanced checks and balances within the government, an enhanced role of Parliament and citizens, an independent judiciary, and a most progressive Bill of Rights. Notably, the Constitution provided for a major devolution—not only of resources and functions, but also creating a whole new layer of county government.

The idea of devolution, had been attempted from the post colonial government days but failed due to various reasons. Kenya adopted the system of devolved government from a unitary system of governance. Previously divided into 8 provinces, the constitution introduced 47 county governments, matching the number of tribal groups in the country.

The system was formerly implemented after the 2013 elections. The general idea of devolution is good, as it ensures that resources are not restricted to only some areas of the country, which was previously the norm. The Northern regions of Kenya for example had been neglected by previous governments and are under-developed compared to the rest of the country.

Kenya’s decentralization is among the most rapid and ambitious devolution processes going on in the world, with new governance challenges and opportunities as the country builds a new set of county governments from scratch.

The country previously under the provincial system of administration was divided into provinces, then divisions, districts and lastly wards. The new constitution introduced the central government and 47 new county governments each with Members of the Assembly, Speaker and other officials. The first problem the people of Kenya experienced, was, the Members of parliament rejecting the salaries set for them by the Salaries Regulation Commission and ganging up to increase the amount.

Various civil society organizations came together to protest the move by the parliamentarians by holding one of the most daring protests witnessed in the country outside the gates of the parliament building famously known as the “M-Pigs” protest.  Unfortunately, the government caved in to the pressure to give the parliamentarians what they wanted, and this was the beginning of  making the great Constitution appear like a simple piece of paper, with leaders infringing upon law after law.

Three years down the line the number of representatives (Governors, Senators, Members of Parliament and Members of County Assemblies) has proven to be a challenge for the people of Kenya. The economy is in the sky with the majority of Kenyans struggling to make ends meet, and various employees from the public sector striking more often than before including teachers, doctors, nurses all demanding for their unpaid salaries.

A report which was commissioned by National Assembly Budget and Appropriation Committee and conducted by Auditor-General Edward Ouko, has called for a review of the system of representation. The audit unveiled on Thursday found that Kenyans are over-represented. Kenya has more representatives compared with countries with similar population and size of economy. “Kenya has over 2,600 representatives. This is a ratio of about one representative to about 16,000 Kenyans. The current Parliament translates to an average of 120,000 constituents per Member of Parliament and 100,500 including the Senate. This is lower than the global average of 146,000 constituents per Member of Parliament, but higher than the African average of 83,450 per MP.”

Reports have indicated that the Kenyan representatives are some of the most highly paid in the world, with their pay being higher than the salaries of representatives in developed countries. There are 47 County Assemblies with 2,526 Members of County Assemblies, both elected and nominated. There are concerns regarding the cost implications of the expansion of Parliament from a single Chamber with 222 members, including nominated members, to a bi-cameral Parliament with 418 members (Senators and National Assembly Members).

Kenya’s population is not so much as to have almost 3000 representatives in the Houses of Assembly. This means that there is a bunch of free loaders who are enjoying heard earned Tax-payers money with nothing to show in terms of the development of the people and the areas they represent.  Rather, Kenyans have witnessed the most shocking level of corruption ever in the country, attributed to a bloated government. The first step to saving the country is to reduce the number of representatives by more than half the current number.

What Kenya needs include good governance, low taxes, respect for the rule of law, among others, rather than a big government with the attendant waste and corruption that come with it.

Linda Kavuka is a member of SFL African Executive Board

via African Students For Liberty