Kiambu MCAs were wrong to demand bursary funds from governor

MCAs on Monday stormed the office of Kiambu Governor Kimani Wa Matangi, demanding a speedy disbursement of bursaries to them for onward transmission to needy students in their respective wards. According to them, the governor is using his office to benefit his foundation, which will disburse the funds. Their accusation is that the first-time governor has sidelined them in the plans to disburse bursaries by forming bursary committees at the ward level without consulting them.

Recently, MCAs in Meru passed a motion of impeachment against Governor Kawira Mwangaza for alleged nepotism, illegal appointments, unlawful dismissals, misleading campaigns against other leaders and gross violation of the Constitution. In the Senate, however, the ouster plans failed. These incidents continue to shed light on the power and influence of MCA. The question arises: What is the role of MCAs in our constitutional design? Since devolution was introduced, have MCAs overstepped or misinterpreted their mandate?

Former Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana’s first term was a living hell, thanks to MCAs who blatantly vowed to frustrate his leadership. A majority of county assembly members vowed to block his every move and at one point failed to approve the budget, resulting in paralysis for six months. This culminated in a successful motion for impeachment against Kibwana who survived in the Senate.

Kibwana unsuccessfully requested the President to dissolve the county assembly in September 2014 in an unprecedented move. According to the law, anyone can petition the President to suspend a county government if he or she believes the government is acting against the interests of county citizens. Interestingly, all disruptive MCAs were voted out in the 2017 elections, paving the way for a very productive second term for the governor and the people of Makueni. His performance has been regarded as the best since the devolution of power.

In accordance with the Constitution, MCAs are required to make laws, represent their wards in the assembly, and oversee the county executive. In their capacity as representatives of the people, they consult and present public concerns to the county government and the county assembly. As a result of impeachment powers without clear statutory and constitutional guidelines, MCAs have bullied their way to governing all county affairs.

Governors, Speakers, and county executive members can be impeached due to the ambiguous threshold in the Constitution. This has resulted in political intimidation and harassment of the executive by MCAs in the county’s public affairs management. It is noteworthy that county residents elected the governor directly to perform executive functions. Similarly, the people elect the assembly to carry out oversight and legislative duties.

The role of the MCAs is clearly outlined. In the same way as the National Assembly, they are prohibited from participating in county government and administration. Due to the principle of separation of powers, each branch of government is limited from exercising the core functions of the other branch. The 47 governors and the president form the executive arm charged with managing funds and implementing projects. County and national assemblies legislate and supervise the executive, while the Judiciary delivers justice and interprets the Constitution.

Therefore, the MCAs who camped outside Kimani wa Matangi’s office demanding bursary funds were wrong. They can only suggest how the funds should be disbursed or wait for them to be disbursed and then question how the exercise was conducted. They would be performing executive functions that are solely the responsibility of the governor and his team if they disbursed the funds.

First published in The Standard on 13th January 2023. Kindly reproduced here with permission from The Standard.

Demas Kiprono is a human rights lawyer and a Campaign Manager at Amnesty International Kenya. He writes in his personal capacity. Email: [email protected]