Functions and Role of the County Assembly in Kenya
The role of the County Assembly in Kenya is largely concerned with legislation. The county assembly in Kenya is the law-making organ of the county government. It is one of the state organs that the Constitution delegates power. 47 county assemblies in Kenya are unique to each of the 47 counties.
People elect the Ward Representatives to represent them in the assemblies. You can also refer to your Ward Representative as a Member of the County Assembly (MCA). In the plural form, it is Members of the County Assembly or Assemblies (MCAs). See this detailed article on the role of the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) in Kenya.
The membership of the County Assembly in Kenya is important to run the Assembly affairs. The composition of the County Assembly in Kenya constitutes the following:
- members elected by the registered voters of the wards (Ward Representatives).
- the number of special seat members necessary to ensure that no more than two-thirds of the membership of the assembly is of the same gender (nominated based on the number of seats a political party or coalition has in the Assembly.).
- six nominated members from marginalised groups, including persons with disabilities and the youth. This number should be reviewed to accord with the number of Wards determined by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
- a speaker elected by the county assembly from among persons who are not members of the assembly, as an ex officio member.
The majority party (the party with the largest number of elected MCAs in the assembly) gets to nominate the highest number of nominated MCAs followed by the minority party.
The county assembly in Kenya vets and approves nominees to hold county public offices. These nominees include the county executive committee members (or county ministers). Others are members of the county public service board (CPSB).
The county assembly also vets and approves chief officers in the counties. The chief officers are the persons who head the county government departments. In addition, the county assembly approves the appointment of the county assembly clerk.
While vetting these nominees, the county assembly should consider gender equality. It should also consider the interests of the special interest groups. Another factor to consider is the community and cultural diversity within the county.
The Constitution vests the legislative authority of the county on the county assembly. It also empowers the county assembly to exercise this authority. The county assembly can make any laws that enable the county governments to perform effectively. The performance involves the functions and exercise of the powers of the county government under the Fourth Schedule.
The county assembly in Kenya exercises oversight over the county executive committee. It also exercises oversight over any other county executive organs. It should play this role while respecting the principle of separation of powers. That is, without directly interfering in the functions of the county executive.
The Assembly carries out the oversight through its committees.
The county assembly can also receive and approve plans and policies for the:
- management and exploitation of the county’s resources; and
- development and management of its infrastructure and institutions.
The County Assembly approves the budget and expenditure of the county government. It should authorise any allocation and expenditure of the county government.
The county assembly authorises the county executive to withdraw funds from the County Revenue Fund (Article 207). To do this, the county assembly should pass a law to authorize the withdrawal (Appropriations Act).
The county assembly should also consider legislation before approving the county budget and expenditure. It should ensure the county government budget contains—
- estimates of revenue and expenditure, differentiating between recurrent and development expenditure;
- proposals for financing any anticipated deficit for the period to which they apply; and
- proposals regarding borrowing and other forms of public liability that will increase public debt during the following year.
To facilitate this, the Public Finance Management Act (national legislation) prescribes—
- the structure of the development plans and budgets of counties;
- when the plans and budgets of the counties shall be tabled in the county assemblies; and
- the form and manner of consultation between the national government and county governments in the process of preparing plans and budgets.
In performing this role, Articles 201 and 203 of the Constitution should guide the county assembly. They relate to principles of public finance, and equitable share and other financial laws respectively.
A county government should only borrow funds with the county assembly approval. These loans include those borrowed from financial institutions like commercial banks. The county government can only borrow if the national government guarantees the loan.
Every county government should plan for the county. The county government should not allocate or spend any funds outside a planning framework. The county executive committee should develop the framework with the county assembly approval.
The planning framework should integrate economic, physical, social, environmental, and spatial planning. The county plans should form the basis for all budgeting and spending in a county.
There are four types of county development plans in the County Governments Act:
- County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP), a five-year plan;
- the County Sectoral plan, a ten-year plan;
- County Spatial Plan, a ten-year plan; and
- Cities and Urban Areas Plans (City or Municipal Plans) under the Urban Areas and Cities Act.
The county assembly in Kenya can play any other role as may be set out in the Constitution or any other law.