The Ongoing debate on the move by President Mwai Kibaki to decline to give assent to County Governments Bill 2012 indicates that Kenya like any other country with a devolved system of Government is being confronted with a constitutional crisis.
The legislators amended the Bill putting the provincial administration under the armpit of the governor, a move that the executive termed as unconstitutional and infringement on the provisions of the constitution.
According to the President, the amendment transferred the security functions of the national government to the county Government in contravention to the express provisions of the constitution.
On the other hand the legislators argue that there was no question as to the legality of their amendment adding that it was possible that the President Kibaki was misadvised.
The ongoing debate puts into perspective the question; how should competing claims of central and county governments be resolved?
According to a constitution working paper dubbed “Restructuring the Provincial Administration: An Insider’s View” by Obuya Bagaka from a constitutional perspective, the organization of a devolved government is a political issue, while the practical organization and implementation of policy are administrative issues.
“For the latter to succeed, the PA must be structured as the nerve-centre for the coordination of issues between the central and county governments,” Bagaka adds.
He argues that the critical role played by the provincial administration officials cannot be wished away arguing that their role has been enhanced and made complex under the new constitution.
Bagaka explains that with regard to its enhancement, the provincial administration must serve as the nexus between the national and the county governments.
“Provincial administration officials will not only need to enforce national legislations, but they will also be required to understand, interpret and inform the central government of the implications of county legislations on national development goals and vice versa,” he elaborates.
Additionally he notes that the provincial administration officials will be critical in creating intergovernmental relations where policy decisions are effectively coordinated and implemented.
“The provincial administration system of administration may become the nexus between the central and county governments and the coordinator of programmes that cut across county boundaries,” he explains further.
Bagaka concludes by saying that as much as critics may castigate the provincial administration as a colonial evil, under the new constitution the provincial administrator will be the necessary evil needed to ensure smooth running of the central government policies at the local level.
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