The Eighth Devolution Conference (DevCon) being held in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County, this week stands out for a number of firsts. It is the inaugural biennial conference, the previous ones having been annual. It is also the first in the second decade of devolution. Lastly, it is the first under the fourth Senate.
All these help put into perspective the dynamism in the implementation of devolution, the eventful journey we have travelled in this regard so far and also demonstrate our determination to keep the flame of devolved governance alive, in line with Chapter 11 of our Constitution. Devolution took effect on 2013.
The Eighth Devolution Conference, themed “10 Years of Devolution: The Present and the Future”, brings together all key stakeholders and players in the devolution space, among them state and non-state actors and countless other interested parties and partners based locally and from elsewhere across the globe.
The meeting and its numerous side activities provide an ideal platform for stocktaking on the implementation of the devolved system of governance, assessment of its impact on the lives of Kenyans and enabling all the players to interact and build synergy in their work.
It is instructive to note that devolved governance remains a key plank of the 2010 Constitution. It is what Kenyans believed would be the panacea to the hitherto skewed development blamed on inequitable sharing of national resources across the country since Independence.
As Kenyans and the framers of the Constitution anticipated, devolution has lived up to its billing. The past 10 years have witnessed tremendous development and transformation at the grassroots in a scale never witnessed before.
In each of the 47 counties, there is a story to tell about how devolution has impacted the lives of residents and improved livelihoods. The levels and scope may vary but this largely depends on a region’s priorities and development strategies.
The billions of shillings in the form of Exchequer disbursements to counties have left clear footprints of devolution in all spheres under devolved functions. These constitute the milestones we have to celebrate at the conference.
As we embark on the second decade of devolution, we need to latch on the momentum generated and use it to escalate the gains while eliminating the barriers and bottlenecks that continue to encumber the work of counties.
One of the several lingering challenges that we need to boldly confront and resolve is delays in Exchequer disbursements that literally ground work in counties. The second is the alarming matter of pending bills, estimated at Sh160 billion. The third is noted grey areas in some of the devolved functions, which routinely trigger misunderstandings between the national and county governments.
Chaperon of devolution
The Senate, as the chaperon of devolution under Article 96 of the Constitution, remains committed to purposeful deliberations to find a lasting solution to these issues that collectively threaten the wellbeing of counties and seek to derail devolved governance. With the full commitment of all parties and partners in the devolution space, we are in an ideal position to determine the root causes of these impediments and firm up effective responses to them.
The memorable take-aways from this conference should be formulation of a win-win strategy to ensure counties get their funds in time, sparing them the functional paralysis often occasioned by the financial dry spells. Another would be ensuring that the counties create additional sustainable revenue streams that could gradually wean them off Exchequer financing.
Beyond this, the Senate anticipates robust engagements on how to rally counties to counter emerging, but critical, challenges such as the impact of climate change, global economic downturn and geopolitics as they manifest in the jurisdiction of each devolved unit.
In line with our constitutional mandate of oversight, legislation and representation, the Senate remains duty-bound to consolidate the gains of devolution and escalate its benefits to Kenyans, as envisaged in our Constitution.
Mr Kingi is the Speaker of the Senate. @HonAmasonKingi