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Kenya’s Odinga Says His Party Backs Referendum on County Budgets

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Aug. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, leader of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement, said he wants a public referendum over whether the state should allocate more funding and authority to county-level governments.

The East African nation enacted a new constitution in 2010 that created 47 regional governments with the aim of decentralizing decision-making and accelerating local development projects. County governors are campaigning for a constitutional change to raise the minimum annual allotment their communities together receive to 40 percent of national revenue from 15 percent as stipulated in the charter.

“If devolution works, a lot of the problems affecting our people will be resolved,” Odinga said at a meeting of his party’s national executive today in the capital, Nairobi. “That whole chapter on devolution needs to be looked at afresh.”

In March, Odinga lost in his third presidential bid in elections he described as flawed. The winner, Uhuru Kenyatta, in March signed a pact with other political parties that gave the Jubilee Coalition he leads a majority in the 349-seat parliament and the Senate, according to the presidency.

Constitutional changes may be prompted by lawmakers by way of legislation or through a petition signed by at least one million registered votes. Even if an amendment is rejected by the parliament or Senate, it can be approved in a public referendum by a majority of voters. Modifications in the charter linked devolved government and other areas of national importance must be passed in a plebiscite.

Reduce Patronage

The Orange Democratic Movement’s executive committee today also voted for resolutions to strengthen the role of senators and to curb the scale of government patronage along tribal lines. Counties should be be given broader authority over functions of the government including education, said Odinga.

Kenyatta on Aug. 14 urged “Kenyans to stop threatening the government with constitutional amendments to serve partisan interests,” according to a statement from his press office.

Kenyan counties are expected to receive 210 billion shillings ($2.4 billion) in the current fiscal year through June, equivalent to about 34.5 percent of national revenue.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Malingha Doya in Nairobi at dmalingha@bloomberg.net

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