Yes, transfer all devolved tasks to the counties

Azimio leader Raila Odinga addressing the 2023 Devolution Conference in Kitale. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

President William Ruto’s promise on Wednesday that the national government will in the next 60 days transfer all devolved functions currently being undertaken by national government ministries and departments, was long overdue.

For a decade now, the 47 devolved units have been crying that the national government has continued to retain essential services mainly because of their big budgets, most of which are donor funded.  

The Fourth Schedule of the 2010 Constitution shows where county functions are situated and explains about concurrent functions. It also designates any other function not assigned to the counties by the Constitution, or any other written law, as a national government function.

Exclusive functions are those that fall under either the national government or the county governments respectively. Each level of government is assigned its own functions which it should perform without interfering with the functions of the other arm of government, hence the exclusivity.

As experts have noted, concurrent function means a function or power that the Constitution, or any other national legislation, confers on more than one level of government. It becomes a function or power within the concurrent jurisdiction of each of those levels of government.

However, such functions are not properly defined, such as housing, health, planning, transport and disaster management. It thus worries many Kenyans that the national government still retains control of these services a decade later.

What does President Ruto or his deputy Rigathi Gachagua have to do launching market stalls, livestock sale yards, county abattoirs, plant and animal disease control centres, and fisheries among many of the other activities they have been busy with? 

As a rule, county health facilities and pharmacies, ambulance services, promotion of primary health care, licensing and control of undertakings that sell food to the public, veterinary services, cemeteries, funeral parlours and crematoria, and refuse removal, refuse dumps and solid waste disposal should be dedicated exclusively to county governments as a basic obligation of the national government. 

We must applaud counties for committing themselves to enhance own source revenue through policies and automation of systems to enhance transparency in revenue collection, which has been a major drawback of the devolution journey. 

While Azimio leader Raila Odinga, the father of devolution has faced backlash over his remarks on US Ambassador Meg Whitman, his and President Ruto’s remarks on devolution should be taken seriously. The sideshows at the conference should just remain there.

The governors and other county leaders should now embark on delivering the Kenyan dream of devolved governance and resources. It can be done!