Last week, 47 governors held a meeting in Nairobi that would pass for normal in other circumstances. But considering that what brought the leaders of the devolved governments together was principally selfish, and the presence of other players from outside their circle, the convention was everything but normal.
The county bosses, operating under their umbrella body, the Council of Governors, called the meeting after getting reports that the Ethics and Anti- Corruption Commission (EACC) was coming after them following alleged irregularities in hiring men and women to sit in their county executive teams.
Because the intended onslaught was targeting most of the counties, CoG, acting in self-preservation, moved fast to initiate some form of diplomacy to appease their main pursuer and save their skin. EACC was invited to the meeting so as to be persuaded to go slow on the alleged irregularities. Going by the reports from the meeting, it seems the objective was achieved.
It is, however, the unintended results of the deliberations that have a more positive promise for the country.
In a stark deviation from its past combative approach, CoG appeared to warm up to the National Government and more or less made an appeal for closer working ties. The country cannot wish for anything better than harmony between these two levels of government.
To begin with, the meeting was attended by agencies of the National Government whose mandate includes very key roles in economic development and good governance. The State Department of Trade, EACC, and Brand Kenya all have important contributions to make towards improved living conditions of Kenyans and their cooperation with county governments can only lead to good tidings.
In fact, CoG Chairman Josphat Nanok already reported the early fruits of the cordiality, including the partnership with Kenya Meat Commission to rehabilitate slaughterhouses in the counties and help secure local and internationals markets for livestock products.
This, indeed, is music to the ears of livestock farmers in the country who have been experiencing difficulties getting value for their labour for a long time, including manipulation and exploitation by greedy brokers and middlemen and women.
Nanok also spoke of the establishment of a national commodity exchange programme, in partnership with the Ministry of Trade, which would facilitate movement of products between counties so as to link demand and supply. The benefits of such a system are obvious and immense.
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Why did it take too long?
One wonders why it took so long for our county presidents to discover that it pays more to work with their country counterpart than against him!
And the benefits are mutual. About the same time the governors were making known their noble intention to partner with the State, National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich released the year’s draft Budget Policy Statement.
The Budget Policy Statement provides the breakdown of what the Government intends to prioritise in a given financial year and the draft is an invitation for the public to interrogate the statement and give suggestions on what can be made better before the final budget is made, and read.
A perusal of the draft statement released on January 19 shows that the Uhuru Kenyatta-led government is giving priority to what are now famously referred to as the Big Four.
The President, through Rotich’s draft, lays emphasis on the specific actions his government is going to take to ensure that the country realises an improved contribution of the manufacturing sector to the Gross Domestic Product of at least 15 per cent; every Kenyan has access to adequate food supply, universal health coverage and that at least 500,000 affordable and decent new houses are constructed between now and the year 2022.
Although the national government has exhibited the will and ability to achieve the Big Four on its own, a close working relationship with county governments is sure to make the process faster and easier, considering that the targeted and final consumer is a subject of both levels.
It is imperative to note that the national government’s Economic Transformation Agenda, pursued in the last five years and which has formed the infrastructural foundation of the Big Four, was met with some resistance by some governors, making its implementation unnecessarily slow.
Though most of the projects under the Agenda were relatively successful –like the Last Mile Connectivity, roads, the Standard Gauge Railway, Urban Street lighting- the impact on the lives of the client, the ordinary Kenyan, would have been stronger if there was synergy between the counties and the National Government.
As President Kenyatta embarks on the mission of delivering his promise, every effort must be made to ensure he gets all the support he needs, especially that of the 47 governors.
Mr Mugolla is a teacher in Busia County [email protected]