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Conditions for workable devolved two-tier system of governance

COMMENTARY
By Ndung'u Wainaina | May 23rd 2018
A woman carries a giant replica of the constitution of Kenya to be installed on a stage during the inauguration ceremony of President Uhuru Kenyatta. [File, Standard]

The recent Devolution Conference in Kakamega, just like the previous four, failed to address important issues, including restructuring, reordering and realigning national government ministries, departments and agencies to respect devolution.

Others are incomplete transition, unbundling and costing functions, and comprehensive audit of legal and institutional regime that existed before the 2010 Constitution. These are some of the causes of the ballooning public wage bill.

The Constitution sought to address socio-economic challenges in a number of ways. Elaborate measures are provided to ensure that national resources and development are equitably managed.

The law also provides for affirmative action to redress past socio-economic exclusion. The Constitution provides a broad framework for the management of land and land-based resources.

Devolved governance is the restructuring of state, authority and functions so that there is a system of co-responsibility between spheres of government and between institutions of governance according to the principle of subsidiarity.

This increases the overall quality and effectiveness of the system of governance, while increasing the authority and capacities of sub-national levels.

Deliver effectively

In order to realise the objectives and benefits of devolution, it is crucial that a comprehensive devolution policy with competent institutions and correct processes able to deliver effectively is enacted.

Devolved governance is contextualised and understood within the framework of political transfer of policy and legislative powers to local democratically elected leaders and the establishment of mechanisms of accountability to local constituents; administrative transfer of functional responsibilities in various sectors as well as staff resources to the jurisdiction of elected local governments;  fiscal transfer of revenue, budgeting and expenditure authority to local elected bodies, development planning and management process on development.

In view of the principles of efficient, effective and prudent use of resources, cooperative government and the appreciation of interdependency of functions, it is necessary for both levels of government to design an administration structure that is facilitative of respective functional mandates.

County governments play the central role of providing leadership and direction in policy-making; administering policy, programme and projects on governance, development and provision of quality services as well as act as the main initiator of economic development programmes through public spending, regulatory powers, and promoting local technological.

The cost and inefficiency of running parallel structures is unduly expanded and adds strain to minimal financial resources. Where possible, the national government should hook into county government structures to implement its programmes in counties.

Similarly, the national government can avoid establishing duplicate structures by assigning to county governments the function of implementing some of its programmes in line with Article 183 (1) (b).

Good governance

The aim of restructuring the political and service structures through devolution include promoting and advancing democracy, participation and accountability.

It would further enhance development, efficient and effective service delivery. It would entrench equity and inclusiveness in development and access to services.

Last, devolution was perceived as a means of enhancing the concept of good governance by incorporating vertical separation of powers and increasing the ambit of checks and balances.

Specifically, the devolved system of governance requires restructuring of the central government and devolving the administrative authority to the counties.

It should re-orientate governance systems to allow public participation in decision- making, facilitate monitoring of government functionaries, rationalise administrative structures for improving efficiency, introduce performance incentive systems to reward efficient officials, ensure functioning of the related offices in an integrated manner to achieve synergistic effect and improve service delivery.

It should eliminate delays in decision-making and disposal of business through enhanced administrative and financial authority of local government level officers, improve administrative and financial management practices in the district and management controls over operational units and redress grievances of people against maladministration.

Mr Wainaina is Executive Director, International Center for Policy and Conflict @NdunguWainaina

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