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The pitfalls new governors must avoid to escape voters’ wrath

By Elias Mbau | Published Thu, August 31st 2017 at 00:00, Updated August 30th 2017 at 19:59 GMT +3

Congratulations are well in order for your well-deserved victory and this:-nobody can deny you.

You put up a spirited fight with gusto and valor and you emerged the proud winner of the second most coveted position in the republic-the governor of your county.

And the national government; thanks to its continuity mechanism has not wasted time in bestowing you with the instruments of power and authority by mounting a colorful swearing in-cum-handing over ceremony in all the 47 counties.  

Hard work begins now. For the county governor, the clock has already began ticking. I want to applaud those of you who have already hit the ground running for they know time is very short indeed. Forget about victory parties and celebrations. They will catch up with you if they must.

Not later than August 30, in each year, each respective county executive member for finance is expected to issue a circular to all county government entities kicking off the budget-making process for the next financial year. A similar circular is also issued by the Treasury and sets out guidelines to be followed by all.

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You must quickly learn to appreciate that you’ve become a CEO of an institution that invariably runs by operation of various laws, regulations and procedures that are keenly being monitored by various other departments of government who will eventually demand accountability.

You must very quickly arm yourself with the crucial statutes including the County Government Act, the Public Finance Management Act, the Public Procurement And Disposable Act, the Public Audit Act and the constitution.

I’m aware that you know everything having passed the all-important interview by Wanjiku but beware- you are now in charge of a government which has structures with both reporting and operational systems.

While governors with continuing mandate have their beds laid out, it is a moment of reckoning for the 22 new governors and the counties they lead. This calls for an understanding of how history and critical junctures shape the trajectory paths of nations and economies thereby setting them on different planes of prosperity and poverty.

This is the year when some counties in Kenya that lie shoulder to shoulder with one another will make such crucial departures into their future growth plans that it will be hard to compare them as having existed side by side. Kenya is oftentimes compared with the South East Asian Tigers; Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan whose growth rates compared favourably in the early ‘60s.

The past five years of Kenya’s experiment with devolution cannot be said to have been smooth insofar as growth and development is concerned. There is no doubt that despite the apparent success of the system, the poverty gap between the haves and have nots have continued to increase. Similarly, the overall rate of growth of the economy have not been as encouraging as was initially anticipated.

Formative Years

The formative years of the first set of governors have been grappling with institutional and systems layout, recruitment and capacity building, as well as laying a foundation for economic take-off in line with the broader Vision 2030.

Granted counties with continuing governors will seamlessly build onto their experience and growth agenda, thanks to the principle of continuity while all others have to get back to the drawing board to analyze the pledges they made to the electorate, their considered visions and potential and wisely design strategies of how to leverage on the broader National Development Blueprint.

While good public governance is an essential component of management of public affairs, an efficient and accountable administration is a requirement under our current constitutional dispensation.

While each county is managed by a governor and their bureaucrats, acting on behalf of all citizens, they must be alive to the fact that they owe the duty of accountability to the electorate and each citizen has a small amount of authority over them.

Governments must aim at improving the well-being of individuals and households by assuring efficiency in the allocation of county resources especially public finances in an equitable and rational manner. Devolution of services calls for the measurement of the role of government and its relationship with the citizens both formally and informally.

Citizens are expected to influence and exercise some control over the decisions that affect them. This concept of voice implies an engagement with the government that moves beyond mere consultation to more direct forms of influence over planning and budgeting for needs and priorities of the county.

Mr Mbau, a Public Finance Consultant is a former Maragua MP.

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