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Counties get Sh50 billion to overhaul main towns

President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses the 5th annual devolution conference via video link from State House, Nairobi. [Photo/File]

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday launched two new programmes - the Kenya Urban Support Programme (KUSP) and Kenya Devolution Support Programme (KDSP) that will receive the funding.

The launch of the programmes was one of the highlights of the 5th Devolution Conference currently going on at Kakamega High School, Kakamega County.

Uhuru, who addressed the delegates through a live video link from State House Nairobi, said the Sh50 billion would be performance based, meaning that select counties would only access the funds after meeting certain targets.

The programmes will offer counties a new revenue stream for funding to turn at least 59 former municipal centres into towns.

The KDSP will have Sh30 billion ready for 45 counties to support urbanisation while KUSP, with a budget of Sh20 billion, will target urban centres' waste management, storm water drainage and investments in connectivity such as roads, non-motorised transport facilities, and street and security lights.

Counties will also be expected to invest the cash in urban economic infrastructure as well as fire and disaster management. 

About 59 towns have already been identified for the funding.

But several governors who spoke to The Standard, among them Makueni's Kivutha Kibwana, said they were yet to receive details of the new programmes.

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya said the World Bank was funding the urbanisation programme.

World Bank

“Former municipal councils got World Bank support to help them to urbanise. All towns except Nairobi and Mombasa are beneficiaries. For instance, here in Kakamega we expect to receive about Sh400 million to go to Mumias and Kakamega towns,” Mr Oparanya said in an interview.

Nyamira County is among those that have already started laying grounds for implementation of the projects.

Governor John Nyagarama said his county had a draft municipal charter and had finalised the county urban integrated strategy. 

To qualify for the grant, counties will be expected to open a special account as well as set up municipal boards, have a project team and appoint town managers.

Uhuru also proposed that counties should harmonise the levies they charge to collect local revenue to eliminate investment barriers between them.

 

“I would like to request for deliberate harmonisation of all levies and fees. Seventy per cent of the levies that remain are payable to counties,” he said.

After devolution, counties went on to introduce new taxes within their jurisdictions, some of which have made it expensive for traders to conduct business.

Uhuru directed the Ministry of Public Service to provide space for counties to set up shop in Huduma centres to provide all county permits under one roof.

Nairobi will be the first beneficiary of the new plan.

Uhuru also called on governors to align their development projects with his 'Big Four' development agenda that includes manufacturing, universal healthcare, affordable housing and food security.

He announced that his recent visit to the United Kingdom was aimed at finding investors for the manufacturing sector.

Willing investors

Uhuru said he was looking for investors willing to relocate their operations to Kenya and start processing the country's tea and coffee within the country's borders.

“On the blue economy, we are looking at partnerships with Canada to exploit the vast maritime resources,” he said.

The President said India had also made a commitment to start buying green grams from Kenya. He directed the Ministry of Agriculture to work with counties to ensure that his agenda of food security was attained.

“There is no reason for our potato farmers to only harvest seven bags on an acre when a farmer in Ethiopia can do 21 bags. This is embarrassing,” he said.

He said the two levels of government must collaborate to ensure that productivity at the farm for small-scale farmers was enhanced and agriculture extension services revived.

“We must empower farmers to increase output per acre and reduce unit cost of production,” he said.

Yesterday, the conference also discussed delays in approvals for audited financial statements of the national government. This, according to governors, led to counties getting less money than they should.

Governors were put on the spot for the low absorption rates on development expenditure.

“What is the point of budgeting billions if they do not spend the money to benefit their people?” said Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala.