County Assemblies are established under Article 176 (1) of the Constitution which provides that: - “There shall be a county government for each county, consisting of a county assembly and a county executive.”
Roles of County AssembliesThe role of the County Assembly in Kenya is largely concerned with legislation. The county assembly in Kenya is the law-making organ of the county government. It is one of the state organs that the Constitution delegates power. 47 county assemblies in Kenya are unique to each of the 47 counties. The roles of the County Assembly are enshrined in the constitution under Article 185 of the Constitution which provides that: -
Further, Section 8(1) of the County Government Act provides additional roles in the form of:-
“8. Role of the county assembly
People elect the Ward Representatives to represent them in the assemblies. You can also refer to your Ward Representative as a Member of the County Assembly (MCA). A member of the County Assembly (MCA) is an elected representative who is in charge of an electoral unit known as a Ward. In the hierarchy, the Ward is the smallest electoral unit followed by the Sub-County (Constituency), the County and finally the Country.
The membership of the County Assembly in Kenya is important to run the Assembly affairs. The composition of the County Assembly in Kenya constitutes the following:
The majority party (the party with the largest number of elected MCAs in the assembly) gets to nominate the highest number of nominated MCAs followed by the minority party.
The Constitution vests the legislative authority of the county on the county assembly. It also empowers the county assembly to exercise this authority. The county assembly can make any laws that enable the county governments to perform effectively. The performance involves the functions and exercise of the powers of the county government under the Fourth Schedule.
The legislative process at the County Assembly usually involves the following stages: -
I. PUBLICATION AND CIRCULATION
A Bill is published in a special or supplementary issue of the Kenya and County Gazette that may be released occasionally.
II. FIRST READING
This is intended to draw the attention of the Members of the Assembly and the public to the Bill. At this stage, the Bill is assigned a tracking number and referred to the relevant Sectorial Committee.
III. SECOND READING
The Mover introduces and outlines the main purpose and objectives of the Bill including the details. Members discuss the Bill and the views of the Mover together with the report of the Sectorial Committee. At the end of the Second Reading, the only amendment that could be made is to defer its Second Reading for six months which is literally, “killing the Bill”.
IV. COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE
At this stage the Bill is considered clause by clause. Members may propose amendments but no amendment is permitted if it implies a direct negative of the original proposal, or elimination of its main purpose or objective. The correct way of expressing a contrary opinion is by voting against the Motion.
V. REPORT STAGE
The Committee informs the Assembly sitting in Plenary of their consideration of the Bill.
VI. THIRD READING
Members may again debate the principles of what is already in the Bill but further amendments should not be proposed, except to defer its Third Reading for six months, literally-“killing the Bill.
The county assembly in Kenya exercises oversight over the county executive committee. It also exercises oversight over any other county executive organs. It should play this role while respecting the principle of separation of powers. That is, without directly interfering in the functions of the county executive.
The Assembly carries out the oversight through its committees.
The county assembly can also receive and approve plans and policies for the:
The county assembly in Kenya vets and approves nominees to hold county public offices. These nominees include the county executive committee members (or county ministers). Others are members of the county public service board (CPSB).
The county assembly also vets and approves chief officers in the counties. The chief officers are the persons who head the county government departments. In addition, the county assembly approves the appointment of the county assembly clerk.
While vetting these nominees, the county assembly should consider gender equality. It should also consider the interests of the special interest groups. Another factor to consider is the community and cultural diversity within the county.
2.2 To Approve the Budget and Expenditure of The County Government
The County Assembly approves the budget and expenditure of the county government. It should authorize any allocation and expenditure of the county government.
The county assembly authorizes the county executive to withdraw funds from the County Revenue Fund (Article 207). To do this, the county assembly should pass a law to authorize the withdrawal (Appropriations Act).
The county assembly should also consider legislation before approving the county budget and expenditure. It should ensure the county government budget contains—
To facilitate this, the Public Finance Management Act (national legislation) prescribes the structure of the development plans and budgets of counties;
In performing this role, Articles 201 and 203 of the Constitution should guide the county assembly. They relate to principles of public finance, and equitable share and other financial laws respectively.
2.3 To Approve The Borrowing By The County Government
A county government should only borrow funds with the county assembly approval. These loans include those borrowed from financial institutions like commercial banks. The county government can only borrow if the national government guarantees the loan.
2.4 To Approve County Development Planning
Every county government should plan for the county. The county government should not allocate or spend any funds outside a planning framework. The county executive committee should develop the framework with the county assembly approval. The planning framework should integrate economic, physical, social, environmental, and spatial planning. The county plans should form the basis for all budgeting and spending in a county.
There are four types of county development plans in the County Governments Act:
The MCA represents the residents at the Ward Level in the County Assembly under the following aspects: -
3.1 Maintaining Close Contact With The Electorate
The MCA always maintains close contact with the electorate. He or she should consult them on issues before or under discussion in the county assembly.
This means that the MCAs should not ‘disappear’ once elected only to reappear five years later seeking for re-election. The MCAs should strive to be in close contact with those who elected them. They should be available when people need them and they should be approachable.
Several public surveys usually indicate that Kenyans interact with their MCAs the most compared to other elected representatives. This means that public trust and confidence in MCAs is high.
The MCAs should strive to inform their electorate on issues before the Assembly. They should then consult their electorate and vote on these issues according to the views of the people.
3.2 Present Views, Opinions, And Proposals Of The Electorate To The County Assembly
Another role of the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) is to represent the people. By doing so, they should present people’s views, opinions, and proposals before the county assembly. We are an indirect democracy where people elect a few people to speak for the larger group.
After the consultation, the MCAs should present the wishes of the people before the Assembly. These wishes differ across the Wards and each MCA should prioritise the needs of their Ward. The proposals can be in the form of priority projects like those under the Ward Development Fund.
The Budget process in Kenya is also an avenue for MCAs to present people’s wishes before the Assembly. The process gives them an opportunity to share county resources and determining who gets what.
Other ways where the MCAs can present people’s wishes is through legislation in the Assembly including motions, debates, and resolutions.
3.3 Attend Sessions Of The County Assembly And Its Committees
This role of the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) is very crucial. The MCAs cannot present people’s views, opinions, and proposals if they do not attend county assembly sessions. The most important business of the Assembly takes place in the committees where the MCAs make most of the deliberations.
If any MCA fails to attend eight consecutive sittings of the county assembly, they risk losing their seat.
Both plenary and committee sessions are the avenues where the MCAs can project their voice. They can give their views on issues that affect their electorate through plenary sessions and vote on the issues.
In the committee sessions, they have a direct role in enabling public engagement and legitimising the operations of the Assembly. They can find out the facts of a case, examine witnesses, sift evidence, and draw up logical conclusions on a number of issues before the Assembly.
The committees allow the public input into the legislative process of the Assembly. They also serve as oversight mechanisms. Committees assist the Assembly in its functions of legislating, monitoring and reviewing legislation, administration and expenditure, gathering information, and publicizing issues.
Other MCAs only attend committee meetings to secure the lucrative seating allowances but not to represent the people. Attending the sessions should not be a routine but the MCAs should do it to serve the people.
3.4 Provide Linkage Between The County Assembly And The Electorate On Public Service Delivery
County governments provide crucial public services, such as healthcare, agriculture, water, and pre-primary education. People care about public services and depend on the county governments to deliver them properly.
The MCAs should provide a link between the Assembly and the public on the delivery of public services. This role of the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) ties strongly to legislation and oversight.
Through legislation, the MCAs decide how the county government shares public resources within the county. They should ensure that the public services are allocated in a manner that respects equity within the county.
Through the role of oversight, the people put their trust in the MCAs to ensure that the county executive implements county policies and projects in an efficient and effective way.
The MCAs have a crucial role to ensure that the county government delivers services directly to the grassroots and ensuring there are enough funds for the provision of (these) services.
The MCAs also provide the linkage through consultation with their electorate. The Assembly organizes public forums to seek public views on county government plans and policies. In addition, by presenting the public views before the assembly, the MCAs facilitate this linkage.
The MCAs also mobilise residents to identify priority projects for the county government to implement, thereby facilitating public service delivery.
Moreover, it is the duty of the County Assembly members to facilitate civic education on the role of the Assembly in public service delivery.