THE STORY OF CITIZENS IN “POLITICAL NO MANS LAND”: THE CASE FOR WARD DEVELOPMENT FUND


BY: JUMA HEMEDI

24/02/2021

The Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill 2020 also known as BBI has been in the public discussion since 2018 when President Uhuru Kenyatta and the former Prime minister Hon. Raila Odinga met at harambee house for discussions and a handshake, ending weeks of political street protests and violence in the cities of Nairobi and Kisumu. 

Yesterday Tuesday 23rd February, the BBI bill surpassed the minimum number required from county assemblies to take it to the next stage.

Among the proposals in the Bill is the creation of ward development fund. The Ward fund is set at 5% of the funds received by counties from the National Government. 

This proposal has elicited public debate among Kenyans with some saying that this provision was included to act as a bribe to the MCAs to entice them to pass the Bill. Nothing can be further from the truth.

HISTORY OF WARD DEVELOPMENT FUND

In the year 2002 the government of Kenya through the Ministry of Local Government introduced Local Authority Service Delivery Action Planning (LASDAP), to create an entry point for local Authorities to constructively engage with its citizens on matters of planning and Development. 

The objective of LASDAP was to improve efficiency and accountability. In particular LASDAP process was to focus on aspects such as;

a) Service delivery

b) Financial management including budgeting

c) Participatory planning and local governance

d) Revenue mobilization, monitoring and evaluation

e) Institutional reforms

f) Fiscal and overall decentralization.

Preparation of the first plan by local authorities was to enable local Authorities to draw funds from Local Authority Transfer Fund (LATF). LATF had been established as an act of parliament as Local Authority Transfer Fund No 8 of 1998. Section 5 (2) of the act stated; 

“There shall be paid into the Fund in subsequent financial years, five percent of all tax collected under the Income Tax Act in the year or such other proportion of the said tax as the Minister may, with the approval of the National Assembly, from time to time, specify”.

I invite us to interact with the act.

LASDAP provided a forum for consultations, monitoring and feedback mechanism to communities, local authorities, civic leaders, the private sector and donors. 

LASDAP guidelines also provided for Project Management Committees (PMCs) who were the elected representatives of the beneficiaries and worked hand in hand with other stakeholders to spearhead Project Monitoring and Evaluation, within the LASDAP process. The eligibility for Committee membership included ability to read, write, leadership or supervisory skills.

The ward development fund being proposed in BBI is similar to the LASDAP model proposed and established in 2002 in two ways. First it proposes a minimum of 5% of funds transferred to the county and it seeks to meet the same objects of inclusivity in local development. 

WARD FUND AND THE UNDERSERVED AREAS “THE POLITICAL NO MANS LAND”

Thika Town, Juja and Ruiru constituencies were created in 2012 during the IEBC boundaries review. They were created as a result of splitting the then Expansive Juja Constituency. With the boundary review some wards in Thika town were merged and others were split. 

The new Ward boundaries created an opportunity as well as challenges. But the ward boundaries also created “marginalisation” and political discrimination. Allow me to explain with examples.

Landless estate is perhaps the biggest middle class estate in Thika Town, it falls under Kamenu ward. Kamenu ward has a population of over 74,000 residents. Adjacent to Landless in Kamenu ward, is Salama Estate bordering Gatuanyaga Ward. Due to voting station proximity a majority of Salama residents are registered voters at Gatuanyaga Primary School which is in Gatuanyaga Ward. 

Most landless residents are voters in polling stations in town and others at Thika Approved School which is a polling station in Hospital Ward.

In political terms, residents of Landless and Salama estates do not vote for the MCA in Kamenu. Since politics is about interests, whenever challenges such as roads and drainage systems are discussed in Landless, there is no political capital to be gained by the Kamenu MCA. The only party that would gain political capital there is the area MP. 

With a ward development fund the MCA will be compelled by law to make sure the area is developed, services are delivered and the infrastructure development projects are done. It will also enable Landless residents to petition the office of MCA to ensure that their area is given equal attention as well as participate in the planning and budgeting of development in their area.

MAPOROMOKO ESTATE, TORA ESTATE, MAKONGENI PHASE 10, 13, 6, 7 

When the 2012 boundary review was done, Maporomoko estate was classified under Murang'a county so was Bendor, Githingiri and Maki estates. Residents of these areas pay their rates to Thika Sub- County, Kiambu county, get essential services such as water distribution and most have businesses and interests in Thika town.

They are registered as voters at Chathi Police Post, Thika stadium and Moi Primary School, these polling stations are in Thika Township ward. The township MCA cannot help lobby for any development there since they belong to another county yet they are voters in his ward. The MCA on the other side of Murang'a has no Political capital to gain from Maporomoko, Maki or Bendor estates. leaving them with no representation.

With ward development fund the Kenyans in those areas will be included in development of their ward irrespective of where they vote and irrespective of who the MCA will be. They will no longer be “marginalized”.

Same will go to residents of Makongeni phase 10, 13, 6, 7. These estates are in Kamenu ward, but most of the residents are voters at MOW Canteen, Joy Town Secondary School, and other polling stations in Thika Town. The two mentioned polling stations are in Hospital Ward which means the Kamenu MCA gains no political capital there and the Hospital Ward MCA cannot lobby for development there even though residents in these estates voted in his ward. 

Ward development fund will bring social justice and inclusivity in development to the residents of Makongeni.

Tora residents will benefit from the ward fund too. Politically it falls under Witeithie Ward in Juja Constituency but most of its residents vote in Kisiwa Primary School, EGAARD Canteen and Mary Hills Girls High School all of which are polling stations in Thika Township ward.

There are a lot of these examples all across the country which has left so many areas underserved, unrepresented and isolated in terms of development. Just like the drafters of LASDAP concept and LATF act had noted in 1998 and 2002, the drafter of BBI have taken the same note in 2021, almost 20 years since the LASDAP experiment. 

It is a welcome move and will ensure shared prosperity, accountability and inclusivity.

The responsibility now will be upon us……to find those amongst ourselves who will be able to give us quality representation, inclusivity and basic human dignity.

Juma Hemedi

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