The role of the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) or Ward Representatives in Kenya is diverse but indispensable. They are a key component of the county governments and sustain the counties’ existence.
Yours truly already addressed the role of the County Assembly in Kenya. This article looks in-depth at the major role of the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs).
But who is an MCA? A member of the County Assembly (MCA) is an elected representative who is in charge of an electoral unit known as a Ward. The Ward is the smallest electoral (and administrative) unit followed by the Sub-County (or Constituency), the County and finally the Country.
The MCA represents the residents at the Ward Level in the County Assembly. Several Wards make up a Sub-County. The County Assembly Clerk shall swear in the Members of the County Assembly on the first sitting of the County Assembly.
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The major role of the Members of the County Assembly in Kenya is legislation, representation, and oversight. In addition, the County Governments Act states the role of the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) under Section 9.
The role of a nominated MCA in Kenya is the same as the role of an elected MCA.
The MCA shall maintain close contact with the electorate. He or she shall consult them on issues before or under discussion in the County Assembly.
This means that the MCAs shall not ‘disappear’ once elected only to reappear five years later seeking for re-election.
The MCAs shall strive to be in close contact with those who elected them. They shall be available when people need them and they shall be approachable.
Several public surveys usually indicate that Kenyans interact with their MCAs the most compared to other elected representatives. This means that public trust in MCAs is high.
The MCAs shall strive to inform their electorate on issues before the Assembly. They shall then consult their electorate and vote on these issues according to the views of the people.
Another role of the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) is to represent the people. By doing so, they shall present people’s views and proposals before the County Assembly.
Kenya is an indirect democracy where people elect a few people to speak for the larger group.
After the consultation, the MCAs shall present the wishes of the people before the Assembly. These wishes differ across the Wards and each MCA shall prioritise the needs of their Ward.
The proposals can be in the form of priority projects like those under the Ward Development Fund.
The Budget process in Kenya is also an avenue for MCAs to present people’s wishes before the Assembly. The process gives them an opportunity to determine resource allocation for the counties.
Other ways where the MCAs can present people’s wishes is through legislation in the County Assembly including motions, debates, and resolutions.
This role of the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) is very crucial. The MCAs cannot present people’s views, opinions, and proposals if they do not attend County Assembly sessions.
The most important business of the Assembly takes place in the committees where the MCAs make most of the deliberations.
If any MCA fails to attend eight consecutive sittings of the County Assembly, they risk losing their seat.
Both plenary and committee sessions are the avenues where the MCAs can be heard. They can give their views on issues that affect their Ward through plenary sessions and vote on the issues.
In the committee sessions, they have a direct role in enabling public engagement and legitimising the operations of the Assembly. They can find out the facts of a case, examine witnesses, sift evidence, and draw up logical conclusions on a number of issues before the Assembly.
The committees allow the public input into the legislative process of the Assembly. They also serve as oversight mechanisms.
Committees assist the Assembly in its functions of legislating, monitoring and reviewing legislation, administration and expenditure, gathering information, and publicising issues.
Other MCAs only attend committee meetings to secure the lucrative seating allowances but not to represent the people. Attending the sessions shall not be a routine but the MCAs shall do it to serve the people.
County Governments provide crucial public services, such as healthcare, agriculture, water, and pre-primary education. People care about public services and depend on the county governments to deliver them properly.
Public Service Delivery: It is the mechanism through which public services are delivered to the public by local, municipal, or federal governments.
The MCAs shall provide a link between the Assembly and the public on the delivery of public services. This role of the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) ties strongly to legislation and oversight.
Through legislation, the MCAs decide how the county government shares public resources within the county. They shall ensure that the public services are allocated in a manner that respects equity within the county.
Through the role of oversight, the people put their trust in the MCAs to ensure that the County Executive implements county policies and projects in an efficient and effective way.
The MCAs have a crucial role to ensure that the county government delivers services directly to the grassroots and ensuring there are enough funds for the provision of (these) services.
The MCAs also provide the linkage through consultation with their electorate. The Assembly organises public forums to seek public views on county government plans and policies. In addition, by presenting the public views before the Assembly, the MCAs facilitate this linkage.
The MCAs also mobilise residents to identify priority projects for the county government to implement, thereby facilitating public service delivery.
Moreover, it is the duty of the County Assembly members to facilitate civic education on the role of the Assembly in public service delivery.
5. Extend Professional Knowledge, Experience or Specialised Knowledge to Any Issue for Discussion in the County Assembly
The role of the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) has been under constant scrutiny. They face constant criticism for lacking (professional) knowledge and experience to run County Assembly affairs.
In the beginning, many of them were unable to participate in Assembly debates or make laws that were above scrutiny. There were a good number of them whose level of education was only a primary or a secondary certificate. Several others were school dropouts.
Despite that, the MCAs shall utilise their professional qualifications and specialised knowledge to run the County Assembly business. This knowledge is essential, especially in the committees.
Therefore, it is important for an MCA to have an understanding of local and national issues while also keeping up with current affairs. After all, the MCAs are making and implementing change that will have a real effect on the lives of those within the county they serve.
Professional knowledge, experience, or specialised knowledge is important for any MCA to have to generate and oversee plans and policies that are actionable.
The skills and experience they gain in the private or public sector prior to seeking public office shall translate to key issues and policy developments in politics (of the Assembly).
The role of the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) restricts itself to the authority granted by the law. A member of the County Assembly shall not be directly or indirectly involved in the following issues.
The MCAs shall not perform executive functions. These functions include management and implementation of funds and implementation of projects.
The MCAs are restricted from performing executive functions due to the principle of separation of powers and also to avoid conflict of interest.
Separation of powers, therefore, refers to the division of government responsibilities into distinct branches to limit any one branch from exercising the core functions of another. The intent is to prevent the concentration of power and provide for checks and balances.
Let’s use the example of the Ward Development Fund (WDF) that MCAs are desperate to own.
It is the role of the County Assembly to appropriate (allocate and authorise) public expenditure. Therefore, if they allocate money for WDF and still manage and implement the fund, it would be difficult for them to oversee (be accountable for) how the fund is spent since they would be incriminating themselves.
The CPSB is in charge of recruiting, hiring and managing county staff while the CASB does the same for the County Assembly.
In short, the role of the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) does not involve public service delivery. They only provide linkage in service delivery between the public and the county government.
Therefore, the role of the members of the County Assembly (MCAs) can be summarised as legislation, representation and oversight (including budget appropriation).