Lack of understanding of key issues around devolution is generating a great deal of mistrust among stakeholders.
Some counties, for instance, contest the piecemeal transfer of functions that has taken place so far, arguing that all powers provided in Schedule Four of the Constitution be transferred at once. But the reality on the ground is that many county governments lack the capacity to absorb all such powers within a short period. This argument is strengthened when one considers that Kenya has few experts to adequately cater for the 47 counties.
Revenue allocation is also proving to be a divisive issue. By law, counties are entitled to at least 15 per cent of the total National Revenue collected. Despite many counties currently enjoying adequate funding, there is still a feeling that budgetary allocations need to be increased, and that the national government is reluctant to do this.
Many governors have since launched a spirited campaign to that effect, and have interpreted the perceived national government reluctance as a ploy to frustrate the effectiveness of devolved units. On closer scrutiny though, the reality, as with the transfer of power, is that county governments do not have the absorption capacity for more than 15 per cent of the national government revenue.
Other challenges involve the four different offices involved in the devolution process, each with its own administrative and bureaucratic culture that complicates the process; lack of audit reports for structures, assets and liabilities inherited from former local government institutions; as well as failure to observe the ‘at least a third rule’ which was designed to ensure adequate representation of women and other historically marginalised groups in the devolved structures.
These challenges do not only pose great risks for the effective roll out of devolution in Kenya, but also provokes some critical questions about the current implementation strategy.