Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Let’s not interfere with MCAs’ oversight role

Once again sorry for this delayed posting; I've been traveling quite a bit lately, but hopefully I should now be able to post more promptly. Here come a series of the latest articles...
By Lukoye Atwoli
Sunday Nation, 18 May 2014
The recent spate of impeachments and impasses at county assemblies pitting governors against members of county assemblies (MCAs) seem to be raising hackles in certain quarters. There are increasing murmurs suggesting that MCAs are being overzealous in their task of keeping the county executive on its toes. There is even talk of passing legislation to limit the county assemblies’ roles in the impeachment of governors.
The idea that MCAs wield the power to fire the county government terrifies many observers, and there are suggestions that this power will cause governors to try and please them with corrupt deals and money-wasting perks.
I disagree with the doomsayers.
One key reason Kenyans rejected the old constitution was that it had systematically concentrated all power in the hands of the president, who could delegate and use the powers at will. At some point, a little over 20 years ago, a former Attorney-General boldly declared to the National Assembly that “nobody, save the president, is above the law”.
The implication was that the president could do pretty much as he pleased, and all presidents under that constitution did exactly that. In that constitution, there was even a clause that indicated clearly that all public servants served at the pleasure of the president. He had power over life and death, and the many detentions without trial that dot our history are just a few of the demonstrations of that power.
It is in realisation of these dangers that Kenyans resolved to write a new constitution and, in a process spanning two decades, we eventually came up with our current charter. In the new constitution, we reduced and dispersed executive authority, to a large extent. We created multiple executive offices protected by the constitution, and introduced rights that could not be abrogated at will.
In the realisation that even the dispersed executive could go overboard and harm the very people it was supposed to serve, we built in a system of checks and balances that, if implemented, would be the envy of all civilised nations across the globe.
At the national level, we established a Senate with the power to send the President and his Cabinet packing should they contravene the constitution or any other written law. The National Assembly was vested with day-to-day oversight authority to ensure that the interests of the citizen are upheld in all government dealings. Above all, we established a Judiciary to arbitrate in cases of conflict between the different arms of government, and between law-abiding citizens as well.
At the county level, we established the office of governor to parallel that of the national president, and county assemblies to provide oversight and, if necessary, to impeach the governor and his executive should they behave in a manner contrary to the best interests of the citizens. To guard against frivolous motions of impeachment, we gave the Senate the final authority to decide the fate of impeached governors.
As far as oversight of executive authority is concerned, especially in the case of governors, the constitutional procedures have been scrupulously observed. We should let the law take its course because that is how we designed our system of governance. Interfering with the oversight functions can only send this country back to the dark old days of leadership by executive fiat, and this would be a sure recipe for chaos.
Dr Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer at Moi University’s School of Medicine.

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