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It’s all systems go as Uhuru set to open devolution fete

By Roselyne Obala | Mar 3rd 2019 | 3 min read
Road works being undertaken along Kagio-Kutus-Kerugoya Road, in preparation for the devolution conference that starts tomorrow at the Kirinyaga University grounds. [Munene Kamau, Standard]

Kirinyaga County is set to play host to over 6,000 delegates this week for the 6th Annual Devolution Conference. It is all systems go for the event that kicks off tomorrow at Kirinyaga University. The conference will be officially opened by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday, at a time devolution is facing a myriad of challenges, including the proposed reduction in revenue allocation by Sh9 billion.

The event, whose theme is “Deliver. Transform. Measure. Remaining Accountable,” comes at a time governors are seek to assert their authority as heads of county units, even as they support the government’s Big Four Agenda.

Devolution stakeholders are also expected to deliberate on a number of issues, such as offensive laws that seek to claw back devolved functions, the National Government holding on to counties’ functions, accountability concerns and milestones achieved.

Coming hot on the heels of the Council of Governors (CoG) elections that saw them vote out all former office holders and elect fresh blood in a bid to ensure the spirit of devolution is fully entrenched as stipulated by law, they expect to hold candid deliberations.

“The meeting is anchored on achievement of the Big Four Agenda. We will seek emphasis on three National Government policies - food security, universal healthcare and housing - and push to have them fully devolved, while manufacturing should be treated as a concurrent function,” said CoG chairman and Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya. He stated that, “It will be an interaction between the two levels of government on how to implement the four pillars, including the budgetary allocation. We want clear provisions set for proper synergies. The synergy will benefit both levels.”

Big Four

Delegates will be treated to a number of activities, including football, tug of war and field visits to counties in the Mt Kenya and Aberdares region in line with the Big Four Agenda.

Host governor Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga) confirmed that preparations for the events will be complete by mid-day yesterday, while the conference venue is set.

“We are putting up temporary structures at the stadium in conjunction with sponsors, including a room for players. The players will be kitted on Monday upon arrival and sitting arrangement for VIPs and others has been finalised,” said Waiguru.

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga will be the chief guest on Wednesday, when he will give a keynote speech, Deputy President William Ruto will officially close the event on Thursday. Six years on, as the county chiefs take stock of devolution milestones, they are still contesting over the devolution of functions with the National Government, as well as under-funding, which has adversely hampered service delivery and could scuttle efforts to realise the Big Four Agenda at the county level.

“Funding is the biggest challenge in the implementation of devolution. We will make a general statement at the conference as we prepare for the summit on March 29, where we will be very specific on the same,” said Oparanya.

The summit is chaired by the President, will be accompanied by his deputy. In attendance will be the 47 governors, Devolution Cabinet secretary (CS) Eugene Wamalwa, and the Intergovernmental Relations Technical Committee (IGTRC), among others.

The County Government’s Act requires that the summit be held twice a year, however under the leadership of immediate former CoG chair Josphat Nanok, no meeting was held. Oparanya has faulted attempts to slash Sh9 billion from the counties’ vote, saying it will be in breach of the Division of Revenue (DoR) Act 2018, which states that in the event of a shortfall in budget, the National Government bears the responsibility.

“Counties have passed their supplementary budgets. We cannot review the County Integrated Development Plans (CIDPs) when we have already committed the monies to various development projects,” said Oparanya.

Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia also weighed in on the matter, stressing that devolution affects ‘Wanjiku’ directly as was intended by the Constitution.

“Denying counties funds means denying the people water, drugs, food, security and education, among other necessary services. This has fundamental negative impact on the people,” said Kimemia.

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