A dangerous trend is cropping up — that of the national government and counties always working at cross-purposes. This, coupled with the fact that the two levels are bleeding from pervasive corruption, should worry every Kenyan concerned about the country’s economic health.
Yesterday, Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya delivered the State of Devolution speech in which he gave details of the teething legal and constitutional obstacles facing devolution. Key among them, he said, was the tendency by the national government to ‘take back’ already devolved functions. He also cited endemic funding delays that have dragged counties into debts amounting to billions of shillings. Oparanya also highlighted several success areas, including scaling up of documentation and sharing of innovations and good practices. The devolved units, he said, have formed viable economic blocs to share resources and secure external markets.
When the 2010 Constitution took effect, Kenyans banked their hopes for change in devolution. The hopes remain valid, the challenges notwithstanding.
Improved inter-governmental relationship between the two levels of government is key. The law establishes structures that allow the two levels to co-exist. The national and county governments coordinating summit is one such structure. Blame game and duplicity of roles in a way that negates the Constitution is unhealthy. In recent past, we have seen the Senate and National Assembly engage in turf wars that only serve to infringe on and interfere with the functions of county governments.
There’s need for a unified voice and sustained effort in fighting graft. An effective war on graft will renew Kenyans’ confidence in the system and set the agenda for delivering on the Big Four and the devolution promise.
We urge counties to ensure prudent absorption of funds. Since 2013, counties have cumulatively received Sh1.57 trillion worth of equitable share of allocation translating to 20 per cent of the total shareable revenue of Sh7.8 trillion overall. Kenyans deserve real service delivery that offers value for money.
We have seen projects completed without value for money while ineptitude remains rife among senior individuals holding key positions of power. This has to change. The journey has just started. Let’s make devolution work.