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Let's turn scrutiny to graft in counties too

Michael Ndonye

By the end of August, this year, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) was investigating 21 sitting and former governors over economic crimes and misappropriation of tens of billions of public funds in counties.

While we are fixated on graft in the national government, county governments are steeped in corruption, a dangerous trend that began after the 2017 elections.

The 2010 Constitution downsized the erstwhile ‘imperial presidency’, which was in the previous constitution. And to ensure equal distribution of resources, chapter 11 of the 2010 Constitution created a devolved system of government.

However, toward 2017, we started blaming all our economic woes on the national government and the president while forgetting the place of our 47 devolved governments.

We went to the 2022 General Elections knowing whoever becomes president will be our boon or curse.

As a result, Kenyans have shifted attention to what the national government should be doing for the nation as if we have yet to devolve governments.

Why, then, do we have county governments? What is their contribution to development? How many of our current problems should they solve?

For example, Kenyans are dying from El Nino floods in some counties. For the last 10 years since the implementation of the new constitution, counties have been receiving emergency funds. Where do they take the money?

While the national government has a role to play, we should remember the more significant roles of our county governments in economic and social development.

Disbursed funds

In 2021/2022, county governments received Sh340.4 billion. The architects of the 2010 Constitution envisioned devolving the resources from the national government to the 47 counties. How we forgot about their part in the contribution to the progress and development of this country is disturbing.

Today, governors are free spirits — spending the money they receive from the national government and those they collect in the counties. With a focus on the national government and the president, no one can suspect how tens of billions are spent in counties.

How can we get back our focus to devolved governments? In August 2022, we were given seven ballot papers and voted to elect the current leaders. While the topmost positions went to the national government, others are closer to us, especially the county government, including the governor and the county assembly members.

The county and the national governments are responsible for the country’s development. Kenyans should start holding all elected leaders to account for our woes. It is hypocritical for elected leaders to blame the government from which they are drawing salaries.

Instances of the two levels of governments trading blame for citizens’ woes should be treated as a pot calling the kettle black.

In most cases, the traded blames are scapegoats for non-performance and diversions from responsibility.

It is time we direct our scrutiny on funds use to both national and county governments.

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