Stalemate over counties' funds kills devolution

The COG Finance Committee team addressed the press on Jan 23, 2023, at Delta house. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

The devolution promise turns a decade old this year. Since the 47 devolved units were introduced in 2013, remarkable change has been experienced at the grassroots with trillions of shillings invested. Regions that were hitherto neglected by the central government for years, have a semblance of development and pride.

Power and resources have been devolved to regions that hungered for government services or travelled long distances for the same, today have county governments to serve them. It was a dream the drafters of the 2010 Constitution had while putting in place each provision. They wanted the country to develop equitably and lift up the areas that lagged behind.

But the implementation of devolution did not commence without a bit of resistance from the national government. The pioneer county governments had to fight hard with the national government for some functions and funds.

And just last week, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua failed to unlock a stalemate between the Council of Governors (CoG) and the National Treasury on the amount of sharable revenue. The governors wanted Sh485 billion for this financial year, while the Treasury offered Sh435 billion. This difference has held back operations at the counties.

It is unfortunate that every financial year, the Treasury and the governors have differed sharply on these amounts, hence delaying service delivery. For devolution to work, such negotiations should be fast tracked and be no cause for bad blood between the two governance structures. After all, the national and county governments should always remember that the mwananchi is their primary client.

The monies being shared out are taxes collected from ordinary Kenyans and business entities meant to improve the quality of life for everyone. The sharable revenue is not for the governors or top government officials to build campaign funds or please their egos.

The funds should also not be a source of acrimony between Treasury mandarins and county leaders. They are meant to build roads, hospitals, schools, bursaries for needy students across the country. So when the funds are disbursed late, the county projects stall while residents can hardly get value for money.

We urge the CoG leadership and the Treasury to solve that issue without necessarily requiring intervention from the Deputy President or even the President for that matter. The two entities have the ability to negotiate speedily and release the funds on time. This will ensure faster settlement of pending bills, quality services in counties and faster development.

On the same note, we urge the county leadership to prioritise key needs of their electorate. Prudent use of resources should be the norm rather than exception. Public participation must be carried out. This is the only way to achieve the devolution dream.