Kitui Governor, Dr Julius Malombe, prides to be among the most learned individuals in the country. According to his LinkedIn profile, the governor who has two master’s degrees and a doctorate, is a public policy analyst in matters finance, urban development, infrastructure, devolution, governance, among other areas. With these qualifications, no doubt here is a governor who has the right credentials for the job.
Yet last month, Dr. Malombe surprised many when he ordered the closure of some primary schools in his county because they were built by leaders from the neighbouring county of Tana River. To him, the fact that the schools were built by Tana River County leaders was an “act of aggression” and encroachment on territorial sanctity.
This action, absurd as it may be, is by and large a representation of the wider outrageous behavioral propensities being projected by the 47 county governors. While the framers of the constitution were categorical the creation of the counties with the governor as the chief executive was critical in taking power closer to the people, the system is fast creeping towards what is becoming small chiefdoms run by chieftains.
In the short period they have been in existence, governors have demonstrated a gluttonous yearning for power. This greed is being veiled from the public through arguments and constant confrontations with the national government, which they accuse of frustrating, in fact opposing, devolution. But the level at which some governors, not all, want to exercise their new found powers borders on power getting into their heads and forgetting the real reasons behind the county governments.
According to the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, the functions and powers of the county governments are set out to rotate around agriculture, health services, control of pollution, cultural activities, transport, animal control and welfare, trade, planning and development, pre-primary education, implementation of specific national government policies, public works and services, water and sanitation, fire-fighting and disaster management and control of drugs and pornography.
While these functions and powers are clear, and while there is no denying for county governments to succeed in the mandates the national government must channel resources – at least 15 per cent of all national revenues - to them, the manner in which some governors have been carrying themselves does not inspire confidence. For instance, after being granted special number plates and diplomatic passports, the governors are demanding to fly the national flag on their cars, they want to have a motorcade with riders, they want a retinue of bodyguards, they want more domestic support staff like cooks and gardeners among many other demands.
We do not want to stand between the governors and their quest for more powers and privileges. But we would be failing if we don’t bring it to the fore that some governors seem to have absconded the reasons they we elected into office in pursuit of self-gratification. They should remember that Kenyans at the grassroots aggressively pushed for devolution not to create mini-presidents to lord over them but to bring a government that can work for them closer. Five years might seem as an eternity but the countdown is already on progress.
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