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Gov’t blocks BBI meeting by MCAs, cites Covid-19 surge

The government has blocked a Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) meeting MCAs had planned for Friday at the Bomas of Kenya, citing the surge in Covid-19 numbers.

The 2,237 MCAs and 47 assembly speakers had planned the meeting to take a common stand on the BBI report, keen to use their strategic advantage to demand the inclusion of their issues in the final report before the collection of the required one million signatures.

For the BBI Referendum Bill to advance to the next stage, it has to be passed by at least 24 county assemblies. If less than 24 endorse it, the Bill ends there—giving MCAs the best chance to push for their issues now in exchange for their support.

“We note your request to be allowed to convene a Special Annual General Meeting on November 13, 2020 at the Bomas of Kenya. However, due to the noticeable surge in Covid-19 infections, the resultant increase in the positivity rate, and with respect to the reviewed protocols and guidelines on the pandemic, your request to convene the meeting has not been granted,” the ministry of Interior said in a November 11 letter to the MCAs body.

The letter was signed by Mr Moffat Kangi, the new principal administrative secretary at the Office of the President.

The Nation understands that the County Assemblies Forum (CAF)—a body that brings together all the MCAs in Kenya—is currently meeting at a Nairobi hotel to review the developments and are expected to issue a statement this afternoon.

CAF Secretary General Kipkirui Chepkwony confirmed the lobby group had received the letter and were planning their next move.

MCAs are big stakeholders on the BBI and they will play a very important role. Since the requirement is for at least 24 assemblies to pass before it can to the next stage, we are meeting, all the MCAs in Kenya, in Bomas on Friday to build consensus on how we will handle BBI,” Mr Chepkwony told the Nation in an interview on Wednesday.

In their presentations to the BBI team during the report’s validation process, MCAs called for a provision to establish the County Assembly Fund to exist alongside the County Revenue Fund.

As it stands, all the 47 counties have one account at the National Treasury operated and managed by the county finance team under the governor.

This, the MCAs say, allows the governors to use this immense power to attempt to dangle carrots at them in exchange for provision of funds.

The MCAs lobby group argues that the ward representatives had been forced to beg for funds allocated to them following the provision that only after the sign-off by the County Finance committee minister can the county assembly asses their funds.

The MCAs said they had hired a consultant to pore through the report, guide the ward representatives on what the various provisions on devolution and their roles mean.

CAF had formed a 13-member team, chaired by immediate former chairman and Kajiado Assembly Speaker Johnson Osoi, to analyse the BBI report and come up with a common stand.

While welcoming the provision of a Ward Development Fund— charged at five per cent of county revenue and administered at the ward level—the MCAs said the percentage was not a representative of the increased allocation to counties, from 15 per cent to 35 per cent, of total national revenue.

“Allocating five per cent to the Ward Development Fund after receiving 35 per cent of the national revenue is not enough. We want the amount to be increased to 30 per cent to spur substantial development,” CAF chairman Ndegwa Wahome said in Naivasha on Tuesday.

MCAs have also indicated that they will demand for facilitations similar to those accorded to the MPs, like increased allowances and additional staff before supporting the BBI process.

“CAF has keenly been following the discussions and deliberations around BBI and the fact that all the 47 County Assemblies in Kenya have been ignored in the whole process, yet they are representatives of the people. It is our view that adjustments can still be made to allow specific amendments to strengthen the proposals and devolution further,” the forum said in a statement last week.

While it is not a provision of the BBI, the MCAs also want the report amended to delete a provision in a 2017 amendment of the election laws that requires MCAs to have a university degree to be qualified to run for office in 2022.

The MCAs argue that academic papers do not translate to good leadership.