State of Devolution in Kenya

 

Isaac Ruto,

Chairman, Council of Governors

Governor Bomet County

 

Today we review for the second year the direction, progress, challenges and achievements of our Country under Devolved governance. It is my sincere belief that with all our challenges and shortfalls, NO County can be said to have become worse from Devolved governance. As we take stock of devolution, lessons learnt, challenges, and possible areas of improvement, it is paramount significance to compare expectations and reality in order to plan ahead.

I want to appreciate the National Government and the various institutions through which transition has been managed for the implementation of the Constitution. Even though it was not seamless, the prerequisite legislations and policy frameworks have been established to ensure that County Governments are functional.

From the very onset, devolution was intended to bring essential services closer to the people and ensure public participation in governance processes. This has been made possible by the transfer of functions to the County Governments and consequent resource allocation to implement those functions. Today we continue to meet the expectations of ordinary Kenyans whose conditions and quality of life continue to improve with each passing day of devolution. 

Whilst devolution has succeeded in addressing the issues of inequality in resource allocation and service delivery, it is yet to fully realize uneven growth and development which was perpetrated for many years by the centralized system of governance. The Council notes that a lot of resources are still administered at the Centre.

In Health, County Governments have allocated a budget above the requisite 15 per cent as stipulated by the National Health Policy and have put in place structures to guarantee that the human resource element translates into better medical care. Many counties have acquired kidney dialysis machines and other diagnostic and treatment equipment. In most counties maternal deaths have declined significantly.

In Agriculture, much has been achieved like making extension services, subsidized fertilizer and farm inputs easily accessible to farmers, which has contributed to improve their productivity. 

In Finance, we have made progress in the annual resource allocation to County Governments, with the County Government’s revenue progressively increasing since 2013/14 until a proposed KES 258 billion in 2015/16.

In revenue collection, all the 47 County Governments are progressively shifting from the manual revenue collection systems to digitalized systems. This will prevent revenue leakages. 

In Energy, Roads and Transport, much progress has been made to encourage industrial development in counties. Counties have done a tremendous work in opening up roads to increase accessibility and motorability of previously inaccessible roads.

In Urban Development, County Governments and development partners are collaborating in participatory approaches to sustainable urban development through training and capacity building.

In relation to water resources, County governments have made huge strides in expansion of water distribution networks.

Under Education and ICT, all the County Governments are putting up more Early Childhood Development (ECD) structures to cater for the devolved Education Functions.

But it would be unrealistic to ignore the challenges. The first challenge is putting mechanisms in place to ensure that transferred functions and resource allocation are commensurate. We also have the challenge of double taxation and functions overlap. 

Also of importance to mention is the standoff with the National Government regarding certain functions such as County roads, forestry, electricity, gas and energy reticulation, and cultural activities, public entertainment and amenities. These functions have not been transferred and they are contained in a draft Gazette Notice that is yet to be published by the Attorney-General’s Office.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that County Governments are not appendages or extensions of National Government. County Governments are not state departments. They are legitimate governments, by virtue of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and the March 2013 General Elections. County Governments are units through which sovereign power of the people is exercised and in this regard, their functional integrity and dependence must be respected. Devolution will transform the lives of all Kenyans as has been witnessed in the last two years.


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