The referendum for Punguza Mzigo is coming

According to Article 255 of the Kenya constitution, any proposed amendment shall be approved by a referendum under two clauses. One is that if at least 25% of the registered voters in each of the counties vote in the referendum and the second one is if the amendment is supported by a simple majority of the citizens voting in the referendum. Last week the party leader of Thirdway Alliance Dr. Ekuru Aukot launched a campaign for Punguza Mzigo Bill. Dr Aukot said that his proposal will see Kenya save up to Ksh 3 trillion which is currently the country’s budget. Thus reduce the heavy debt burden of domestic and foreign debts which the country is struggling with.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) already gave the nod for the party to go to the counties in quest for the article 255 requisite of the Kenya 2010 constitution. In a statement made by the chairman of the IEBC Mr Wafula Chebukati the commission was satisfied with the signatures submitted by the party. “In compliance with Article 257 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, the commission undertook a verification exercise to confirm whether the Punguza Mzigo Initiative was supported by at least one million registered voters. The commission has since verified that the initiative has been supported by 1, 222, 541 registered voters. This is therefore to notify the public and all stakeholders that the initiative met the requisite threshold as required by the said Article 257 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, said Mr Chebukati.

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The bill has since created a lot of divided opinions in the country those in support and those against the initiative. Speaking today at an interview Mr. Irungu Kang’ta a leader that I really admire said that, ‘’ Punguza Mzigo Bill has good proposals. However, I don’t agree that money should go towards wards. Who will be tasked with administering the funds yet Governors are the CEOs at the county level.”   The MCAs are in really rallying behind this Bill proposal well I don’t know whether this is the reason for doing so. Senator Ole Kina said that the call for a referendum is not a selfish call since it is a way to talk about issues that are dividing us. Though he also termed it as a utopian project as per now considering the Building Initiative Project is yet to submit its findings.

I would really support the proposal of reducing the number of elected MPs to 147 from 416 and scrap off the positions of nominated Senators and MCAs.  Thinking as an economist, the USA and India uses the same form of government that we are using. They have a much bigger population than us by far yet we have more representation than them. This doesn’t make any sense at all that’s why half of the Kenyan budget always goes to pay the civil servants.  This shouldn’t be the way the government ought to spend its funds rather it should focus more on development especially now that it wants to achieve its Big Four Agenda.

The problem that the Thirdway Alliance now has is to make these 416 leaders rally behind them. This is going to be a difficult task considering the fact that our MPs are very selfish. I picture them using their crafty ways to persuade their supporters not to support the Bill. The only jackpot that the Thirdway Alliance will have is if they got the backing of the three most influential leaders in the country. Kenya is a political country and everything is run by politics. So if the President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga decide to back up the initiative no one will be against it and Kenya will be braced for a referendum.

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The Punguza Mzigo Bill proposal has already won many hearts considering the fact that it has managed to collect over 1 million signatures. The issue is not about whether the Punguza Mzigo Bill proposal will be able to secure a referendum slot or not the issue as per now is if the government has money to finance it.

The government is grappling with very high foreign and domestics debts nearing Ksh 6 trillion. That in mind the government is suffering from a Ksh 607.8 billion budget deficit which is still struggling to finance. This has made the government to go another Eurobond which it successfully secured and offer government bonds in a way to finance the deficit. With the current economic and financial waves hitting the country I am not sure if the treasury will able to come up with the required budget for a referendum. The referendum according to the IEBC will cost the government an estimate amount of Ksh 12 billion as given by the IEBC Chairman Chebukati.

Where the treasury is going to look for that money I have no idea or if it will present any supplementary budget to the parliament that we are yet to know. The way things are we might go for a third referendum. Dr. Aukot has surprised many people after managing to collect those over a million signatures from the people it wouldn’t be a surprise if he gets the referendum requisite. According to the 2010 Kenya Constitution, Dr Aukot requires at least 24 of the 47 county assemblies in the country to support the referendum Bill.

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Most MCAs have endorsed the Bill since the Punguza Mzigo Bill will benefit their wards with more funds being allocated to them. The Bill proposes increase of county revenues from 15% to 35% creating room for more development in the wards. Of course majority of MPs have opposed the initiative. Let us just wait and see if MCAs will push for the Bill.

Adrian Opiyo

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