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Proposals on county projects are welcome

By Nashon Okowa | October 31st 2020 at 00:38:00 GMT +0300

We have been told to read the BBI report first then have a conversation as a people on the proposals. Now, let’s talk about proposals on county governments’ development projects spending. Since the onset of devolution, I have been a critic, and rightfully so, of how county governments have been implementing development projects.

To date, I am still not persuaded that framers of our devolution framework had immaculate thoughts on the development projects implementation criteria. In my mind, they thought it was an obvious task – and so it should be – yet amid the sustained challenges of devolution that we have witnessed hitherto, the substantive waterloo has been the palpable poor implementation of projects. There has been despicable carelessness, terminal bias and profound laziness in projects implementation.  

The BBI proposals, I believe, for the first time attempts to address the underlying issues in development projects. Though not conclusively, but it is a good start. In my past articles, I have lucidly talked about stalled county projects in my village that were initiated by the previous county administration.

Indeed the borehole projects sunk under the first Kisumu governor remains incomplete nearly five years down the line. Our counties are littered with such stalled projects abandoned by incumbent administrations. The BBI proposal on this is timely; that to stop the abandonment of incomplete projects with each change of administration, the National Treasury should not release monies to a new governor before obtaining a list of incomplete projects and a plan for their completion.  

Counties should now develop a strategic plan detailing measures to ensure continuity of government projects. Had this been in place in 2017, my people would no longer be walking nearly three kilometres every morning to fetch water for household use. It is a shame!  

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Closely tied to this is the report’s recommendation that projects initiated in the final year of electoral cycle should receive extra scrutiny from the Controller of Budget, the County Assembly, the Senate and all oversight authorities. It adds that; any project that consumes five per cent or more of the budget should be tabled in Parliament for approval. Brilliant!

This practice of elected county leaders hastily beginning projects in their last year in office has been a key contributor to incomplete projects. Projects commenced without any budget, cost-benefit analysis to residents other than to hoodwink them into voting in a certain way.

It is a relief that we could finally put such nonsense to ice. In fact, it is only sensible that if we are going to bulldoze new county administrations into owning incomplete projects of their predecessors, then they must be sensible projects. 

Proper application of monies allocated to county development projects too has been a thorn in majority of counties. Shoddy projects executed at exorbitant budgets have been a common phenomenon since the advent of devolution. The BBI proposal that the Controller of Budget should assess, verify and confirm that money released has been applied to the stated objectives before release of the next trance is welcome.

Lastly, the report proposes strengthening of the office of the Auditor General, which should be devolved to oversee counties’ accounts and report them timely. I would have loved the BBI team to have addressed the elephant of inadequate construction professionals in our counties to oversee projects. It has been at the core of the counties project implementation challenges and will be with the increased allocation.

- The writer is chair of Association of Construction Managers of Kenya. [email protected]

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