Nothing to show for decade of devolution
Eleven years since its inception into Kenya’s governance, the future of devolution is uncertain.
Devolution, which was enshrined in the 2010 Constitution, was aimed at bringing services closer to the people, promoting regional development and addressing historical marginalisation. But despite significant progress in the past decade, it still faces numerous challenges that hinder its effectiveness.
One of the biggest is inadequate funding. The Constitution provides that at least 15 per cent of the national budget be allocated to county governments. But in reality, counties often receive much less, making it difficult for them to deliver on their mandate.
For instance, in 2021, only six of the 47 counties received the full allocation. That has led to a lack of resources for critical services such as healthcare, education and infrastructure development.
In Baringo, for example, the county government was forced to cut back on critical services for lack of funds. Its health sector, which should provide healthcare to over half a million residents, is hard hit, insecurity due to banditry notwithstanding.
High mortality rates
It has had to close down several health facilities for lack of resources. This has resulted in high mortality rates, especially among women and children.
Another major challenge to devolution is corruption. The devolved system has created opportunities for corrupt practices, especially in the procurement of goods and services. Corruption undermines it by diverting resources into private pockets. It also erodes public trust in the county government and undermines the legitimacy of the entire devolved system.
In Kilifi, a recent audit report revealed that over Sh800 million had been misappropriated in the county’s procurement. Tenders were awarded to companies that were not qualified, prices inflated and payments made without proper documentation.
Lack of capacity among county governments is another challenge. Devolution has created new roles and responsibilities for county governments but many of them cannot perform them.
Most counties lack the technical expertise to plan and implement large infrastructure projects, which are critical for economic development.
In Lamu, the county government is struggling to implement a water project that would supply clean and safe water. The national government-funded project has faced numerous delays due to lack of technical expertise.
That also undermines public confidence in counties.
Other challenges include ethnic politics. In Mandera, county bosses have been accused of favouring the majority ethnicity with resources and jobs.
There’s a need for concerted efforts to tackle these challenges, which undermine the effectiveness of devolution and hinder development in the country.
Jared Agesa, Migori