October 18th 2017

Top Stories / National

Governors’ fourth meeting celebrates devolution successes; challenges remain

Mandera has built the first tarmac road in the region since independence, while counties like Bomet and Wajir have registered tremendous improvement in healthcare.

By Liza Makenalmakena@kenyafreepress.comTuesday, 07 Mar 2017 12:20 EAT

Mandera's first tarmac road caused celebration in the region.

The fourth and last national conference on devolution under the current government kicked off in Naivasha this morning, with each of the 47 county governors eager to showcase their achievements. As President Uhuru Kenyatta presided over the opening of the meeting, it was clear that devolution has heralded a new era of governance in Kenya and helped record developmental gains that continue to shape the country's development.

In recognition of devolution's power and impact, the initial opposition to it by the national government has hibernated if not mellowed, and all political leaders now recognise that devolved governments are here to stay. "The work done by county governments has revolutionalised development in Kenya", says Council of Governors chairman Peter Munya, who is also the Meru governor.

Four years ago, that could have been a controversial statement, with Mr Munya's predecessor Isaac Ruto (governor of Bomet) then engaged in feisty fights with the Jubilee administration to let the governors have their honour of place in Kenya’s politics. The president, his deputy William Ruto and Jubilee-allied senators boycotted last year's conference in Meru, a move then read as part of the government’s effort to undermine governors.

Today's conference in Naivasha town, Nakuru County, brings about 6,000 delegates to discuss how devolution is transforming the country. Themed “Devolution – Transforming Lives: Tell Your Story”, this is the last conference before the August 8 General Election. Last year’s was held in Meru, the previous one in Kisumu and the first one in 2014 held in Naivasha. Reflecting the harmonised viewpoints of county governments, the COG has emerged as a political force despite its members belonging to different political camps.

COG's chairman and other officials (who have included Munya, Ruto, Wajir's Ahmed Abdullahi and Kwale's Salim Mvurya among others) have become national figures owing to their positions on devolution matters. Counties are an incubation ground for new national leadership, evident in the high number of MCAs and county officials currently seeking high office in such diverse regions as Nairobi, Meru, Nakuru, Mombasa and Taita Taveta.

Among the many achievements of county include improvement to health, infrastructure, agriculture and local industry from such diverse counties as Makueni, Wajir, Mandera, Narok, Turkana and Laikipia. Makueni County Governor Kivutha Kibwana has completed health programmes that have made the county a leader in healthcare provision.

Prof. Kibwana says the county had performed exemplary well in all the health indicators compared to the national average and retaliated his government’s commitment in providing quality, accessible and affordable health care to the residents. Infant mortality rate in the county has reduced to 42 per 1,000 live births against the national average of 52 per 1,000 live births while the under 5 mortality stands at 55 per 1,000 live births against the national average of 74 per 1,000 live births.

In Machakos, Governor Alfred Mutua's administration unveiled the magnificent Machakos People’s Park, which has a mini golf course, water fountains, children’s playground and a swimming pool under construction in the 40-acre piece of land overlooking Maruba Dam. With floodlights and CCTV cameras, the park is safe and opens daily from 10am to 8pm. The park is also home to Africa’s first outdoor amphitheater.

Governor Mutua’s Sh80 million bursary fund is going to benefit orphans, bright and talented students and vulnerable children in the County. Each of the 40 County Wards will receive Sh2 million. The county also provides Sh20 million for women in every ward.

Mandera has built the first tarmac road in the region since independence, while counties like Bomet and Wajir have registered tremendous improvement in healthcare.

Nevertheless, the counties have experienced problems as well. Key of these is limited funding. The counties' main source of revenue is national government disbursements. The county governments are expected to raise their own funds, but local revenues are minimal is least urbanized regions with no substantial revenues from land rates.

The devolved system was also implemented hastily, due to poor planning. The Transition Authority didn't have the capacity to make the counties ready from Day One, meaning that services like land adjudication, health and agricultural extensions were delayed. Transfers of functions also took too long, and when it came the national government lumped many non-performing staff on county governments. Some functions overlap with those of the national government.

Cross county planning has been very challenging due to the absence of linkages to manage common or shared natural resources and addressing environmental issues. The water-sharing problems between Nairobi and Muranga reflect the paucity of cross-county cooperation systems.

The counties have also faced overlaps in their programmes and those of the county government. In some cases, certain services will cut across counties necessitating the putting in place inter county service provision mechanism for effective service.

But far the main challenge is corruption, with many governors becoming millionaires and billionaires from corruption. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission recently announced that it would carry out a lifestyle audit on governors, Members of County Assembly (MCAs) and county officials ahead of the General Election in order to blacklist corrupt officials.

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