President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga at the new Kisii State Lodge after they received the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report on October 21, 2020.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga at the new Kisii State Lodge after they received the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report on October 21, 2020.
Image: PSCU

The Building Bridges Initiative team delivered its report Wednesday and with it, far-reaching reforms on governance, Judiciary, security, elections, devolution among other areas.

As President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga have hinted before, the document will require a referendum as it proposes changes to the Constitution.

A referendum and review of the Constitution have been opposed by sections of the political class, including by Deputy President William Ruto.

 
 

Uhuru emphasised Tuesday the need to build a broad-based national consensus and the BBI team appears to have had that in mind when drafting the document.

The report dangles a raft of sweeteners likely to appease several sections of the society such as the youth, women and healthcare workers to support it.

So too, do the politicians eyeing governorship roles and the members of the county assembly have things to ponder.

For the political elite, the task force has recommended an overhaul of the country’s governance structure to deal with the winner-takes-it-all system which Uhuru has called “a zero-sum game”.

The team proposes the presidential system be remodelled into a hybrid one, which the returns the government back to the legislature.

The national Executive will have five positions at the apex. These include the president, deputy president, prime minister and two deputy premiers.

The PM would be the head of government business in the National Assembly to oversee the legislative agenda of the government and supervise the execution of the functions of ministries and government departments.

 
 

The PM will also chair Cabinet committee meetings as assigned by the president and assign any of the functions of the office to the deputies who will be appointed by the President from among Cabinet ministers.

To ensure that the National Assembly does not hold the President hostage, the head of state would be free to appoint his choice as PM if MPs reject at least two of his proposals.

The PM will be appointed by the President from the majority party in the National Assembly, relegating senators from the battle to become what would be the second powerful position after the President.

The proposed hybrid system would create at least six plum slots at the helm of government.

Besides the PM with two deputies, the president, deputy president and the leader of official opposition are some of the top constitutional positions crafted to promote inclusivity.

The leader of official opposition would be the first runners-up in a presidential election and whose party or coalition garners at least 25 per cent of the seats in the National Assembly.

The BBI proposal for an expanded executive is seen as a cure to the winner-takes- all approach that has been blamed for perennial violence after every election cycle.

The proposal to adopt the expanded structure could raise political heat in the coming months and likely precipitate a divisive referendum unless politicians build consensus.

Ruto who has been leading his troops in opposing the BBI process was a no-show at the Kisii state lodge where Uhuru and Raila received the report on Wednesday.

The Cabinet will be a blend of both politicians from the National Assembly and technocrats outside the House with the President given the latitude to balance the administration without limitations.

The BBI task force unveiled some key proposals likely to win over public supporters.

Fresh university graduates, for instance, will have a four-year grace period before starting to repay any loans from the Higher Education Loans Board.

“The proposed amendments further exempt loanees without a source of income from paying interest on the loans advanced to them until such time that the loanees start earning an income,” the report says.

Governors will also be compelled to allocate their deputies ministerial portfolios.

The county chiefs will be in charge of massive financial resources raised from at least 15 per cent to 35 per cent of the national revenue. This would raise total allocation to counties to about Sh740 billion based on this year’s revenue allocation.

Under enhanced resources to counties, the team proposes that such allocation will be based on the Auditor General’s latest report of the national revenue in case Parliament would not have approved the latest audited accounts.

This would mean that monies allocated to counties under the shareable revenue would be on a drastic upward trajectory every financial year in tandem with the increased national revenue.

In achieving gender parity, Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji’s team proposes changes in both the National Assembly and the Senate to appease women. There will be 94 senators, with each county electing one man and one woman to the Senate.

In another step to cure the gender imbalance in the National Assembly, the team is recommending a 360-member House. There will be 290 elected by the people in the constituencies and another 70 filled by parties based on their votes garnered in the elections.

The BBI proposals would be implemented through Constitutional, legislative, policy and administrative interventions contained in the report released on Wednesday.

To tap on the support of the millions of unemployed youth, the BBI team recommends that firms established by the youth be granted a seven-year tax break.

There will also be established business incubation centres across the country for providing business advisory services, which would include access to capital and government contracts.

This proposal could counter opponents of the BBI process led by the DP who have launched a youth empowerment campaign under the ‘hustler movement’ accusing the state of ignoring them.

Uhuru and Raila, the BBI principles ramping up public support for a referendum, would easily use the incentives for the youth to counter the DP’s ‘hustlers’ vs ‘dynasties’ narrative.

The BBI team has also recommended that members of the county assemblies take charge of the proposed Ward Development Fund fashioned around the National Government Constituency Development Fund.

Analysts see this as a major move to appease MCAs who are expected to play a critical role in the passage of the referendum bill. The bill will follow the popular initiative approach with at least 24 county assemblies needed to approve it.

To secure the support of the thousands of the health workers, the BBI team has proposed a bill to amend the Health Act to establish the Health Services Commission.

The commission shall make recommendations to the national government on national policies for management of health care workers; monitor implementation of national policies for management of health care workers by county governments.

The commission shall recommend appropriate action, set and regularly review norms and standards on health matters in the country.

The health workers have been pushing for the establishment of the commission to harmonise the human resource function to address recurrent strikes.

If adopted, the IEBC will no longer be hearing and determining elections nominations disputes as such a function will be done by the Political Parties Dispute and Resolution Committee.

As part of the electoral reforms, the BBI team recommends fresh vetting of elections bosses. The move could force out IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati.

The team has proposed the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020 that requires that IEBC commissioners in office be vetted within 30 days after the Act is implemented to determine their suitability.

Only Chebukati, Abdi Yakub Guliye and Boya Molu are in office after the rest resigned.

The BBI task force has also proposed reforms to tame runaway corruption in government, including barring state officers from doing business with government.

Public officers will not participate in a tender for supply of services and goods to a government agency either in person or using a spouse, a child, a business associate or a company that he or she holds shares in.

Those who make monetary contributions exceeding Sh50,000 shall remit them through electronic means for traceability by Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Commission.