Saturday, April 13, 2013

Arming the watchdog: Do MCAs have the capacity to perform?



Devolved government is here with us and it is an exciting time. It is fulfilling to see the units take shape. Of interest is that the 47 units of government not only have an executive to implement the local policies but also have a local elected county assembly. The County Assemblies are the key institutions in the county that will represent, legislate and offer oversight in the running of the county. The Members of the County Assembly (MCA) are elected from each ward and a few more will be nominated to ensure that there is equitable representation of all people. This includes women, youth, persons with disability and marginalized communities in the county. The MCA’s thus have first and foremost responsibility to ensure that the voice and preference of their constituents is present at the table of decisions. They secondly have a law and policy making responsibility. The laws and policies that they make is what makes the work of the county government possible. It provides the desired end while making provisions of how to get there. Thirdly they have an oversight role in which they hold the power to approve, check and follow on every matter being conducted in the county. Their is to check the powers of the governor.

This therefore means that MCA’s have a greater mandate than was wielded by their predecessors the councilors who operated in the local authorities. They have to take this mandate with the weight it deserves. But standing in their way is their capacity to handle this mandate. How well do they understand their legislative and oversight role? What qualifications do they bring to the table of decisions especially where complex matters of development are concerned? There is also the concern of their remuneration against the work we expect them to play. 

In a training I was conducting for the MCAs of Nakuru County it has emerged that they had very different expectations in as far as their roles are concerned. Of concern is that some have not internalized the principle of separation of powers as entrenched in the constitution. That they will not be able to engage in direct service delivery is already a matter worrying to many. And one would understand their dilemma. In a country with nascent political party ideologies and thus no binding party policies expressed in manifestos, every person seeking election goes out promising different things. Some of the promises though exciting to the masses are untenable. So once one is elected, they realize that they have to honour their promises but cannot do so directly. There are collective plans and budgets to be made and this means tradeoffs so as to work within the resource purse available. Their wit in making the budget thus will be of essence to ensure that they can accommodate other proposals while ensuring that theirs are equally addressed.

But how equipped are the MCAs to carry out this mandates. Do they have the expertise or at least access to expertise to ensure their effectiveness. How well are the County Assembly Service Boards resourced to ensure that the MCAs have offices to operate from? In moving forward it emerges that there is a lot that needs to be done. In the short term there is need for continuous capacity development especially after the formation of committees. Some of those committees will have to be merged in some counties given the number of MCAs. The office of the speakers may also need sufficient support to ensure it has the technical support necessary for effective performance. In the long term, there may be need to review the educational and professional qualifications for election of MCAs as well as the remuneration of this position so as to attract high caliber professionals. 


Nakuru,
Friday, 12 April, 2013

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