Establish institutions for better service delivery in counties – the case of Mombasa County

UncategorizedFebruary 23, 20230 CommentsKituo Cha Sheria

Mombasa County sits at the centre of the coastal region in Kenya. Its economy, population and cosmopolitan placement requires that it takes a leading role in the provincial class of devolution among the region’s counties. However well other counterparts do, a lacklustre Mombasa dims the light for the entire region.

We are already in the third generation of County circle after promulgation of the constitution of Kenya, 2010. All the inaugural governors have left offices. Some served for two terms, others did one, while some were unlucky to complete less than a term – the case of Sonko, Waititu and those who passed away while serving, and their immediate successors.

It is the expectations of all Kenyans that counties are here to bridge the gap of inequality. The Coastal people had sought to have their government closer home. They called for a listening ear among their leaders, and to enjoy the fruits of the local resources. In its affirmation, the region supported the new constitution by 79.84 percent.

For the greater part of the last two circles of leadership, Mombasa County has struggled with its governance processes. It grappled with delayed payment of staff salary, lacklustre public participation, inadequate amenities, instances of corruption, poor sanitation, very wanting medical services among others ills. The result has been a dejected populace and staff, rampant corruption, huge accumulated pending bills, thriving inequality and poor service delivery.

In the course of time, the Civil Society fraternity have followed up on the measures to address these ills and have tracked down the concerns to two concerns – the absence of, or inadequacy of capacity of institutions and the lack of political will to implement the devolved revolution beyond the paper. In this article, I will speak to the institutions that ought to be established to stabilize devolution in Mombasa and among the Coastal counties:

County Executive Committee

Pursuant to article 179 of the Constitution of Kenya, the Executive authority of a county is vested in, and exercised by, a county executive committee. The Committee comprises of the Governor, his deputy and those who get the privilege to be appointed to it by the Governor upon approval by the County Assembly.

Further, article 183 of the Constitution implements the County legislation, and National Legislation to the extent it applies within the county. The committee manages and coordinates county functions, and it also serves to provide the reports to the County Assembly.

A closer look into the above functions shall tell you that a county functioning without a fully-fledged committee is both dysfunctional and makes illegal decisions and actions. The scenario sets a county against avoidable legal hurdles and lawsuits.

It is expected in law, that the Executive determines the organization of the county, including the extent of departments, and varying of the same. It is the primary unit required to establish a citizen service centre from the County Level to the ward level. They are required to follow up on the processes within the city and urban centres of the county.

The County Executive Committee has a quorum of more than one half and is expected to stay in office until a new unit is set up. New CECMs are required in office 21 days upon the swearing in of the County Assembly. Mombasa delayed, the Coast Civil Society with the office of the Governor resulting to the ongoing process of appointment.

In the last regime, Mombasa soiled its reputation on how members of the Executive Committee ought to be treated. At some point, Governor Joho sent them all packing, and took unnecessarily long to process their return. In such circumstances, service delivery was slowed, public confidence destabilised and illegitimacy in governance was considered all-time high.  

The current regime albeit late, have begun the process of setting up this unit. It is the hope of the residents that professionalism will reign in their conduct, to completion of the term. The civil society fraternity will certainly monitor with the requisite precision.

County Assembly

The county assembly remains pivotal to the growth of any county within the republic of Kenya. Ours has been a one party county. They cannot escape the blame of the slow start to posterity of devolution in Mombasa. The Assembly has been quite closed, no media reports from there like it happens at National Level. The vibrancy of the discourse on good governance happens more in the streets of Mombasa than in the house. The committees have not delivered to the expectations of their electorates. In the past two regimes, there have been glaring knowledge gaps. In the three elections, there have been huge turnover indicating the dissatisfaction of the people with their performance. The current Assembly has an advantage in correcting this course. They must reject sycophancy and engage the Executive objectively. The County Assembly must embrace structures needed in enhancing citizen voices. While at it, they have to reach out to Wananchi, be in touch with them and speak out for them. They must also be discreet with their expenditure to win the trust of Wananchi. The budget forum and process accords them such an opportunity. The Assembly has to engage National Government through the Senate on the course of delay of funds, be part of solutions to devolved problems. They have to seek the people’s proper share of revenue. This requires research and a dedicated team to succeed. We at the Civil Society remains fundamental partners in good governance.

County Budget and Economic Forum (known here as CBEF)

As a way of recovering from the decade of disappointments in management of finances and public participation, county Governments are obliged to establish this institution. The Constitution recognised the centrality of the people in management of local resources. Article 174 (c) of the Constitution seeks to give power of self-governance to the people and to enhance citizen voices in making state decisions and all choices affecting them. It recognises the rights of minorities and communities in their local stance. The constitution further buttresses openness and accountability in management of public finance under article 201. In effecting those key principles, the National Assembly, under section 137 of the Public Finance Management Act, 2012, introduced this institution to effect these objectives, specifically in the management of County fiscal province. The institution chaired by the Governor comprises of the Members of the County Executive and an equal number appointed by the Governor upon nomination by different interest groups in the county including but not limited to professionals, businesses, labour issues, women, the elderly, and persons with disability among other groups.

This institution has never reached its genuine crescendo among the coastal counties. Mombasa has never had a functional one. Other counties did not accord members of their forum the requisite space and resources to perform their functions. It is thus imperative, that from the point of formulation of this institution, the due process is observed. The focus must be towards placing quality persons at the helm. The institution will accord life to the historical stress that have curved flesh off the people of the region.

The guidelines for establishing the CBEF requires the Governor to, within 30 days upon swearing in of the members of the County Executive Committee to call for nominations of the Members of the CBEF. There are 21 days further. There shall be a secretary to the CBEF appointed from the members who are non-state actors.

Mombasa City Board

Pursuant to section 13 of the Urban Areas and Cities Act, there is established a City Board. This has never been set up in Mombasa. The planning and sanitation of Mombasa Central Business District requires an institution true to its meaning. Kisumu has earned reputation for cleanliness and resolute planning at least within its CBD because of a similar institution. They are also required to safeguard the constitutional principles of the people besides facilitating public participation within their spheres of operation.

County Administrative units

The County Administration Unit has not been fully established in Mombasa. We currently have the Sub County Administrators and the ward administrators. However, the two levels do not even have offices. The emphasis should be on proper structuring of the units including setting up their offices, and issuing documents to them at all levels. Mombasa must prioritize the village structures to give meaning to the power to those at the periphery. It should be considered that besides their role in service delivery, the proper engagement of persons at neighbourhood will enhance security of persons and play a role in raising revenue for the counties.

Procurement Institutions

The key one being the County Development Coordination and Implementation Committee. This is expected to enhance accountability in all projects being done at the County. The value of finances must be properly harnessed. The people should equally access information relating to those projects.

Citizen Service Centres

This is pursuant to section 119 of the County Government Act. The people should be served in areas closer home. In areas of low land mass like Mombasa, there’s every reason to collaborate with the National level institutions.

The above are some of the key institutions that every county should prioritize at these early phases.

But what is the urgency?

Counties are beginning a journey towards developing County Integrated Development (CIDP) Plans 2023-2027. As guided by the Revised Guidelines for establishing the CIDP 2020, the institutions are fundamental. The County Budget and Economic Forum will be required to facilitate data collection and analysis towards the establishment of the CIDP. The secretariat will be the driving force for the formulation of the planning document. The sector working group too is needed to be in place. It is important that the current Governor, pursuant to engagement with the Civil Society has committed to the processes. The regime has appointed members of the Civil Society to the sector working group.  

The budget circle is another justification for the call for quick action. Over the years, we have had a sluggish attempt to stage the budget circle. It is the most frustrating coup we have observed under the current constitutional dispensation. It has never gotten closer to the expectation of the law and the people. The timelines have been consistently flouted without any regard to the dignity or respect to the law and persons. The county has been prosecuted for conducting illegal processes without the enumerated institutions. The County lost the sense of urgency, and the good will of the people. The jubilance of the populace sunk so law due to repeated mistakes by the county. The process never going beyond the sub county and ward levels, thus leaving out the majority of community members. There haven’t been a proper feedback mechanism and the threshold for conducting public participation has not worked for residents.

Thus, there’s renewed hope that budget circle should regain its prominence and dump the despicable past under former regime. This renewed hope must be enshrined in the institutions of Governance.

In Mombasa, the Coast Civil Society Network for Human Rights where Kituo Cha Sheria plays a pivotal role among the distinguished organizations in the region, have the privilege to advocate for the establishment of these institutions. The current regime has signalled positive elements of listening leadership. We are keen to observe the processes in implementing the route to anchoring county functions in institutions. Should this proceed, Mombasa will soon regain its glory in the space of cities. Any attempts to return the residents to Damascus will certainly face opposition from the sector. The only acceptable course is for the better of Kenya.

Mr. Zedekiah Adika, Advocate, Kituo Cha Sheria; and Chair, Coast CSOs Network for Human Rights.

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