Is it time to run counties as devolved business units?
SEE ALSO :Uhuru announce marshal plan for CoastThe rising wage bill occasioned by a bloated workforce remains a key pressing issue affecting devolution. Everyone agrees and expects that public services need to be better, quicker and cheaper. For this to happen, a professional and competent Human resource is needed. There is however a shortage of professionals willing to work in counties due to lower remuneration and the unfortunate risks that comes with working in a political environment. But just like in business, an efficient workforce is needed to create a sustainable, profitable long term organization. To maximise output, counties have to attract and retain competent professionals and embark on institutional transformation that involves instilling professionalism in staffs conduct and behavior and a radical cultural mindset change. Bureaucracy remains a bottleneck when it comes to effective service delivery in the counties. The key consideration in any public service, just like in business service model, is to consistently put the needs of the customers first and to figure out how to deliver the best services, or for the counties sake, to meet the needs the of local people. Decision making ought not to be laborious and time consuming as evidenced in counties. Public participation and the oversight role played by the county assemblies can sometimes be a hindrance to quick decision making but these are the price that the leadership has to pay in the name of democracy. Just like in Business where board members approve or disapprove the CEO’s strategies, governors need to develop foolproof strategies that can pass the test of county assemblies and citizens scrutiny. Outsourcing as a solution The burden placed on county government remains heavy; this is why I propose adoption of the outsourcing model as used in the private sector. Outsourcing will enable the county governments to concentrate on specific areas and allow the private sector to conduct activities which they have specific specialty in. Private sector can do what the state does but only better and in a more cost effective manner. Outsourcing, however, carries serious risks especially touching on corruption and conflict of interest in award of contracts. This is where transparency and accountability mechanisms have to be put in place. In every county government function, there will always be some role for the private sector. Businesses remain vulnerable to the same risks and challenges facing the public sector but in my conviction, managing counties as one would run a business is the best methodology to achieve devolution success. Mr Mwenda is a policy and communications specialist.
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