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Which way for Kenya as referendum debate rages?

The proposal to change the Constitution through a referendum is the talk of town. And as the debate rages, there is need for Kenyans to acquaint themselves with the socio-economic audit of the 2010 Constitution done by the Office of the Auditor General and released in September 2016.

It will not be an easy task to narrow down on specific areas that need amendment and the possible question(s) that will be vote on.

However, the audit report on the Constitution has itemised areas that have worked well from 2010 to 2016, when the report was released. It also recommended a number of critical areas that need change to meet Kenyans’ aspirations. I cannot enumerate the over 50 findings and recommendations here,  but cannot ignore the few critical ones.

For instance, the audit found out, there is an increase in public expenditure and the wage bill. However, it noted the anomaly cannot be blamed on implementation of the Constitution, and devolution in particular. They instead blamed problem on increase in development programmes by the National government.

Counties were, however, found to have contributed to the wastage of public resources, especially on recurrent expenditure.

Understandably, pressure has been mounting to reduce the number of counties and representation  as one way of managing wastage of resources and also improving efficiency. However, the audit upheld the current number of counties and their boundaries as individual units because they work well with regional history and geography.

 According to the audit, devolution is delivering results in line with people’s expectations of increased access to services. The various development activities taking place under devolution have the potential to contribute to equitable development and address past grievances.

 The audit also disabused concerns amongst Kenyans that devolution is expensive and that counties are too many to maintain. The expensive nature of devolution is largely tied to lack of prudence in use of public resources, which has been documented in reports by various oversight institutions. That can be addressed.

The report drew attention to unprecedented increase in unaccounted spending, which increased from two per cent (Sh37 billion) of actual expenditure in 2012/13 financial year to five per cent (Sh67 billion) in 2013/14.

It also found out that Kenyans are over-represented. The country has the highest number of representatives —MPs, Senators and MCAs—compared with countries with similar population and size of economy. The number of MPs and senators alone is above the global average! Yet, our legislators are some of the highly in the world. They are paid even more than their colleagues  in some advanced economies.

The report recommends the reduction of number of MPs and MCAs without compromising national values on diversity, protection of vulnerable groups, and the marginalised, and the equality principle regarding gender. It proposed the adoption of Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMPR) electoral system to ensure better representation of all Kenyans; and provide for meeting the implementation of the gender principle as per the Constitution.

 As we mull whether a referendum is inevitable, such a vote should be informed by needs of Kenyans, not politicians’ vested interests. [email protected]


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