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February 17, 2019

Devolved Funds Mostly Misused By Elected Leaders

The drafters of the constitution did not go to the trouble of crafting devolved governments, in order to decentralise corruption and ensure a few more Kenyans became overnight millionaires through the back door. Their intention must have been to bring services closer to the people and ensure more equitable distribution of resources and services.

To an extent, the latter is happening and in some counties where residents have witnessed ‘wonders’ they could only behold in their imaginations, including tarmac roads up north and working hospitals in the east. Largely, however, devolved funds have been misused by elected leaders and their cohorts to enrich themselves and to make a few ‘politically correct’ people wealthy instantly. Where available, provision of services takes too long, the delivery is lacklustre and the providers are uninspired workers.

When these devolved governments became operational, there was a mad rush to buy road-making and maintenance equipment and trucks, but soon they found out this was not the fastest way of making money. They discovered contractors and outsourcing.

Most county roads (at least where I come from) are today made not by the county graders but by contractors most of who are well-connected or political supporters of the top dogs. Indeed, the county governments have in their short lifespans turned several paupers to wealthy men (and women) in a matter of months. However the construction and rehabilitation of most of the roads they work on are pathetically poor and residents just accept them because they do not know better or their cries go unheeded.

One only needs to pass through the Kanjeru-Kahuho road in Kikuyu that has just been repaired. The scope of work included grading, gravelling, watering and compaction. On most sections, the gravelling is irregular and compacting more than wanting making the road bumpier than before. Driving on it is like going through a series of jolts. On other sections the jagged quarry chips have not been covered and risk been carried away by storm water when it rains.

Another contractor was engaged by the Kiambu government a year ago to rehabilitate a road near my home in Gitaru, Kikuyu, and make a storm drain that disintegrated due to poor workmanship during the last rains. When it was being made, residents warned that its construction was sub-standard, but their cries were ignored. When it collapsed a few months later, the Kiambu government claimed through correspondence this writer became privy of, that the storm water drains from the Nakuru-Nairobi highway and as such it was up to the Kenya Highways Authority to build and maintain the drain.

Why the county government found it fit to build one in the first place is the big question. Then in contradiction to the earlier statement, the county government later indicated it would contract another company to re-do the drain. Months down the line, residents are still waiting. Also waiting for months, even as the El Niño rains start falling, is the unclogging of culverts.

Then last week, a criminally negligent developer started dumping red soil on the road and its reserves, soil that would make the road impassable once the rains start. Reports about this have been made to practically all concerned officers, including the administration and roads and environment officers at the county and subcounty levels.  All promised to take immediate action, but nothing had been done by the end of the week as the developer continued dumping the soil, barrow after barrow.

Despite several reminders, only one officer from the subcounty, on instruction from his boss in Kiambu, came to the site and on assessing it, undertook to resolve the matter the next day. Residents are still waiting.

And following the example of the village ‘big shot’ that has been dumping soil on the road reserve, other irresponsible residents are now dumping garbage, including soiled diapers, on top of the red soil.

If the administration and two departments of a county government cannot respond to such a simple issue as stopping an individual from dumping on a road, which requires no financial obligations, how long would it take them to respond to matters that require budgets? Is it all about inflated contracts and exotic travel? No wonder clogged culverts reported to the county government more than six months ago are still blocked and El Niño is here.


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