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Deloitte East Africa CEO Sammy Onyango on devolution

By Dominic Omondi | May 26th 2015

During the Second Devolution Conference held in Kisumu, Deloitte East Africa Chief Executive Sammy Onyango moderated a session on the gains, opportunities and challenges of implementing devolution. Business Beat spoke to him on the subject and the role that private sector can play to make sustainable social-economic impact in the counties.

What are your thoughts on Devolution?

Two years on, devolution is headed in the right direction with a strong resolution to bring Government services to the grassroots. The greatest benefit is the pro-poor policies associated with decentralisation because counties know the needs of their people and are best placed to address them efficiently and timely. There is a direct point of contact between the Government and its citizens, which will result in closer engagement and help to bridge the wealth gap, especially in marginalised areas. Devolution has enhanced delivery of service to the citizen, which is a key concern for any Government.

What are the benefits of devolution?

The opportunities created for constituents through public participation has translated into enhanced checks and balances but a lot still needs to be done. One of the major challenges that counties face is revenue inefficiencies, which calls for innovative strategies such as developing county revenue programmes to realise maximum revenue yield. For devolution to be successful, synergy has to be drawn not only from national government but also donors and the private sector. There have been teething problems in areas such as accountability in the use of funds, with a feeling across the population that an unfair allocation of resources has been on staff-related expenses and not development activities. This will have to be addressed as the process moves forward.

What role can corporate Kenya play to enhance socio-economic development through the counties?

One of the greatest concerns for any government is how to deal with unemployment, especially among the youth. This is an area that the private sector can play a pivotal role by expanding businesses into the countries, which will translate into jobs.

However, the private sector does not work in isolation and needs Government to create enabling business conditions in the counties. There is also a lot of expertise that private sector can extend to counties on structures, process, systems and governance.

The role of public private partnership?

Public private partnerships (PPP) have been proven to expedite development of grand projects whereby private sector participation can bridge the resource divide through which the Government can adequately respond to the needs of the citizens. In the long run, development of projects such as infrastructure and other social amenities will bode well for the private sector, as it will ease the cost of doing business across the counties. Overall, there are benefits in bringing private sector practices into public sector management.

What has been the involvement of Deloitte in the Public Service sector?

Deloitte has a long history as a trusted advisor for governments across the world on economic development, national security including cybercrime, disaster response and terrorism prevention as well as management of a nation’s aging population. We have been involved in the development of a model county structure, deployment of staff, development of policies and have also carried out a skills audit in the civil service and local authorities to determine the existing skills and competencies gaps. The final report of the structures was accepted and adopted by the Transition Authority. We have been involved in this devolution journey from the beginning and we intend to continue working with the various governments.

Deloitte partnered with 13 counties to develop the Lake Basin Economic Blueprint. Why did you focus on these particular counties?

The Lake Basin Economic Blueprint - a joint strategy to accelerate economic growth for 13 counties in the Lake Victoria Basin, was developed through a consultative process with county governments, Ford Foundation and Deloitte. It is hinged on the country’s roadmap, which aims to transform Kenya into an industrialised, middle-income country by the year 2030. The blueprint was a pilot project informed by the needs of the 13 counties, which account for over 25 per cent of Kenya’s population, translating into more than 10.5 million people. The region also has one of the highest untapped agricultural production potentials, despite only covering 3.4 per cent of country’s surface area. The seven flagship projects identified include establishment of an Agricultural Commodities Exchange, a regional bank and the creation of the Lake Region Tourism circuit.

Are there plans to roll out similar blueprints for other counties?

Other counties such as those in the Northern and Coastal regions, have expressed interest to form regional economic blocs that will not only leverage on access to wider markets but also collectively attract foreign direct investments.

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