Senators want deputy governors given specific roles in law

Senators have set in motion plans to end supremacy battles between governors and their deputies.

The plan involves amending section 32(3) of the County Governments Act to make it mandatory for governors to assign responsibilities and portfolios to their deputies.

In a move that could set the stage for a major clash with governors, the senators said the two leaders are voted for by the people on a joint ticket and so the deputy governors should not be “flower girls and boys”.

Section 32(3) states that the governor may assign the deputy governor any responsibility or portfolio as a member of the county executive committee.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei argued that since devolution has been in existence for over a decade, they now know what works and what does not.

“Let us amend the law and give designation to a deputy governor,” said Mr Cherargei. “We cannot allow deputies to earn salaries by just reading newspapers and eating mandazi at the expense of the taxpayers, yet they don’t have job descriptions.”

Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi said Article 179 of the constitution vests executive authority on the governor, deputy and county executive committee members.

“It is very unfair for deputy governors to continue being managed like small people. Some are denied vehicles; some are given vehicles without fuel while some do not even have offices,” he said. “When I become a governor, I will give my deputy full responsibilities and power because the Constitution is very clear on this.”

Wajir Senator Abass Mohamed said the Senate Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations committee has received 21 reports of problems between deputy governors and their bosses.

“Recently, the deputy governor of Siaya wrote to the committee saying that he has not been able to resume work even after surviving impeachment last year,” he said.

The senators’ move follows a petition by Mr Japheth Makokha to amend Section 32(3) of the County Governments Act to remove the discretion given to governors to assign their deputies a portfolio and make it mandatory.

The petitioner argued that the numerous disagreements between governors and their deputies can be attributed to the provision.

Mr Makokha claimed that some first-term governors are afraid of assigning their deputies portfolios to avoid being outshone. He added that some second-term governors, who might prefer candidates other than their current deputies to succeed them, may also choose not to assign their deputies any portfolios.

“This situation has seen citizens question the usefulness of the office of deputy governor in situations where the governor has not assigned the deputy a portfolio,” he said.

Senate Speaker Amason Kingi committed the petition to the Justice and Legal Affairs committee and gave it 60 days to dispense with the petition.

Since devolution in 2013, wrangles between county chiefs and their deputies have dogged counties. Since the August 2022 General Election, at least six counties have had their governors and deputies publicly clash. These are Baringo, Trans Nzoia, Kericho, Kisii, Siaya and Meru, with the latter three going all the way to the impeachment level.

Nyandarua Senator John Methu said: “We cannot relegate deputy governors to be flower girls and boys that don’t have anything to do. I am Nyandarua senator, but I cannot tell what the deputy governor of Nyandarua does to earn his salary.

“The committee must put their best foot forward, think through it so that we give justice to the deputy governors. We must ensure the marriages work whether the governors want it or not.”

Meru Senator Kathuri Murungi said that in counties where deputies have been assigned portfolios, the working relationship has been smooth.

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