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Why CDF Mentality About Legislators Prevails among Kenyans

Kenyans still suffer from CDF mentality despite the progressive changes brought by devolution. This new form of governance revolutionized leadership and governance, especially at the local level.

The Constitution reinforces the principle of separation of powers. It defines the powers, functions, and responsibilities of the three arms of government. It ensures each arm of government does not perform the functions exclusive to the others.

The Executive should not interfere with the powers and functions of the Legislature or the Judiciary. The Legislature (or Parliament) and the Judiciary should operate within their own jurisdictions as the Constitution provides. Despite this distinction, the three arms should work in mutual consultation and cooperation.

This separation of powers, coupled with checks and balances, ensures transparency and accountability.

However, within this division comes the issue of CDF mentality.

CDF mentality is a way of thinking where people demand physical evidence from legislators (MPs and MCAs). The people then use this evidence as proof of performance and development by the legislators.

Though it existed before, the coming of CDF deeply rooted the CDF mentality. Not even devolved governance has been able to do away with it yet.

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MPs enhanced CDF mentality

The CDF mentality became widespread when Kenyans saw MPs implementing projects at the constituency level using CDF, such as:

  • constructing dispensaries and health centres;
  • paying bursaries for needy students;
  • drilling boreholes;
  • constructing and repairing roads; and
  • building classrooms.

Therefore, Kenyans became used to the CDF mentality way of doing things. They measured the performance of MPs depending on how the latter utilized CDF.

The New Constitution redefined the roles and functions of legislators (including MPs). MPs can no longer legally allocate themselves money for CDF and neither can they implement the fund. The Constitution limited their work to legislation, representation, and oversight.

The High Court ruling that invalidated CDF reinforced this legal order. Since then, MPs have reshaped CDF in order to continue patronizing the fund. Because of CDF mentality, the MPs continue holding on to the kitty undeterred.

MPs use CDF as a campaign tool for re-election through tokenism. They implement projects here and there to hoodwink Kenyans that they are indeed doing something. They misuse and misappropriate the rest of the money with their cronies. In fact, they hoard large amounts of this money to campaign in the general elections.

Before the High Court invalidated CDF, the CDF Act made MPs the patrons of the fund. They did not take part directly in implementing the fund. However, they held considerable influence on how the CDF Committee spent the fund.

Other legislators promoting CDF mentality

The CDF mentality saw the other legislators draft their own funds that mirrored the CDF.

Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) came up with the Ward Development Fund. The Women Representatives set up the Affirmative Action Social Development Fund. The Senators wanted ‘oversight’ money to monitor the implementation of devolution in the counties. When the High Court ruling annulled CDF, it practically annulled all these funds.

The civil society challenged the Affirmative Action Social Development Fund in court. The case is still pending. MPs amended the CDF law to put CDF within the national government function. The civil society challenged the case in Court and it is ongoing before the Supreme Court.

The Controller of Budget and several County Governors rejected the Ward Development Fund. They demanded MCAs to pull out of the fund. The Controller of Budget released the Ward Development Fund guidelines to enable county governments to establish the fund legally.

Kenyans yet to give up CDF mentality

All these efforts by legislators to create, manage, and implement funds indicate deep-rooted CDF mentality. Kenyans have not yet given up CDF mentality because they lack education on the functions of legislators. They do not know that the legislators should not manage and implement funds.

Kenyans are also desperate for change and the only development they seem to recognize is material, especially infrastructural. That is why many have a “don’t care” attitude when it comes to development and project implementation.

Implementation of funds is the function of Executive Members at the national and the county governments. The legislators should only play oversight on how the Executive implements these funds. This applies to MPs (Women Reps, Senators, and Constituency MPs) and Ward Representatives (MCAs)

Through the oversight function, they should also mobilize residents to identify projects that the funds will implement. They should also establish mechanisms to ensure accountability on the way the Executive spends the money. They should ensure that the projects appear in (national or county) government plans and set aside money for them.

Therefore, the legislators break the law by managing, implementing, and overseeing these funds. It leads to a conflict of interests and violation of the principle of separation of powers. Instead of clamouring for these funds, they should educate Kenyans on what their roles are with the new constitutional law.

CDF mentality prevails because Kenyans lack civic education on what they should ask from each elected representative. Kenyans will not stop demanding for material proof from legislators unless they participate in governance processes.