It will be a misstep for Senate, counties to skip planning for census

Five months from now, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will conduct the 2019 population census. The August 24 and 25 census will be the first under the 2010 Constitution.

The last population census in Kenya was conducted in 2009. The 2019 census will have much more significance and impact than the one of 2009. It will be conducted under a new Constitution and devolved system of governance.

In 2009, there was only one government. In 2019 there will be 48; a national government and 47 county governments. The administrative units in the 2009 census were districts under 8 provinces. In 2019 the administrative units will be designated under the 47 counties and co-ordinated by the national government. Two, the enumeration units will be drawn within the boundaries of the wards established under counties.

There is an overlap in the responsibilities of national and county governments over statistics, transport, housing, health, education, planning and development. Under the Constitution, the national government is responsible for national statistics and data on population, the economy and society generally. It bears responsibility for policies on national economy and planning, education, national transport and communication, housing, agricultural and energy.

Under the Constitution, counties are responsible for county statistics for purposes of county planning and development. They have power over agriculture, county health services, county transport and pre-primary education. They are also responsible for county planning and development which includes statistics, housing and boundaries.

This will be the first opportunity for Senate, county governments and county assemblies to participate in the first census under the 2010 Constitution. It will be an irreversible and fundamental misstep for Senate, county governments and assemblies not to claim and play an active role in the planning for and the 2018 pilot and 2019 census.

The data collection questionnaire is the most important tool in the census. For the census to be full, fair and accurate, the right questions must be formulated. The data collectors must be trained to cater for the peculiarities of each county. Full facilities should be given to the data collectors in every county. Different considerations must be given for remote areas and those with insecurity.

In 2009 the questionnaire was prepared by the national government. It was designed around the agenda of national government. In 2019, the Senate, county governments and assemblies must insist on and directly participate in the formulation of the census questionnaire. Only this will ensure that the data collected from the 2019 census is useful for and will help deepen the quality and reach of devolved government.

The statistics from the census should aid each county government in determining with accuracy the population, distribution, age, economic, housing and employment statistics within its boundaries. The 2019 census data should form the base for future comparison of the performance of counties in the next decade. It should be used in future as a report card for national and the 47 county governments.

The most fundamental use of the census data will be its use in the sharing of national revenue between national and county government. The 2019 population and density data will determine the share of revenue each county government receives from national government from the year 2021 to 2031. That data will also determine the share of revenue each ward within a county will receive from its county assembly. Any county or ward that is under counted in 2019 will for 10 years receive less financial, human and other logistical resources than it deserves.

To date the discussions on 2019 census have only been within the circles of national government and the National Assembly.  If this is not corrected, and soon, devolution will suffer a blow that it is unlikely to recover from in coming decades.

-The writer is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. [email protected]

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