President William Ruto has said that corruption and poor governance are the main obstacles that have hindered the successful implementation of devolution in the country.
President Ruto said that despite the gains the country has achieved through devolution, incompetence and theft of public resources still plague citizens.
“Many counties have evolved into notorious epicenters of wanton looting with everyone from the county executive to junior staff implicated in a wild free-for-all corruption at the expense of service delivery,” said Ruto.
According to the president, these economic crimes are denying citizens much-needed essential services.
Ruto said counties must not become drivers of scandals, and that devolution must be freed from corrupt practices.
“It will not be business as usual. This is a conversation I have had with my CSs, PSs and parastatal chiefs. We should not be raising revenues that end up benefitting individuals rather than improving service delivery for better livelihoods of all Kenyans.”
The president said that his administration is dedicated to ending corrupt dealings in all the counties.
“We shall treat corruption at all levels of the government as a high-priority law enforcement issue. Those implicated will face the consequences regardless of position or status,” he said.
Ruto instructed the relevant agencies to expedite investigations and take action to end corrupt activities in counties.
The president praised devolution, saying that the country has witnessed development over the past 10 years of its implementation.
Speaking during the official opening of the eighth devolution conference in Eldoret town, Ruto commended the Council of Governors for advocating for the transfer of functions from the national government. “Devolution has grown and led to economic transformation over the last decade. Its impact is felt especially in the remote regions of the country that had suffered marginalisation. It has also enhanced inclusivity and democracy,” he said.
The president expressed his satisfaction with the progress devolution has achieved in agriculture, health, infrastructure, education, and other sectors.
Ruto said that his administration fully supports devolution by ensuring timely disbursement of funds to expedite service delivery to the public.
He said the national government has already released funds, including for the previous month.
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Ruto said that the government, in collaboration with stakeholders, has agreed to work on transferring the remaining devolved functions within the next 60 days.
He added that analysis is being done to ensure proper funding for the functions once they are transferred. Ruto said that efforts are being made to grant county assemblies more independence to enhance the effectiveness of devolved units but cautioned that it is not the right time to review salaries and allowances.
“It is difficult to increase salaries when we are trying to create more opportunities for those with no jobs,” he said.
Ruto also said the government is working with all institutions and has asked the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to provide appropriate guidance on matters of salaries and wages in the country, saying that some top parastatal heads are receiving large salaries.
“Pay must reflect that we serve the same people in the country. We pay bills, yet some people have awarded themselves salaries. This is a conversation we should have,” said Ruto as he assured MCAs that they would be treated the same way as MPs. Ruto said the national government will partner with counties in managing health sector to improve services, and cautioned against protests claiming that the national government is taking over devolved functions.
“We are working in partnership to achieve development and boost livelihoods, but we are not taking up devolved roles. We will work together in distribution of subsidised fertiliser, in developing markets, mitigating climate change, among other roles,” Ruto told the governors.
The president clarified that his administration will not subsidise consumption, saying that the country will offer subsidies for production to reduce imports of goods that can be locally produced.
Ruto said the country currently spends Sh520 billion annually on imports that can be manufactured domestically.
“We should invest in subsidies and ensure we capitalize on the existing market for our own produce,” said the president as he lauded development partners for supporting development.
Council of Governors chairperson Anne Waiguru commended the national government for the swift disbursement of devolved funds.
“At the inception of devolved governance, governors had threatened to shut counties due to delays in disbursement of funds. As governors, we hail the government for prompt allocation this year. We were even surprised when we received July funds,” said Ms Waiguru.