'MONEY FOLLOWS FUNCTIONS'

Plan to give counties extra functions if BBI proposals approved

Roles include construction of schools, aspects of security, disaster management, promotion of sports and sports education and consumer protection.

In Summary

• The BBI has proposed that the minimum amount allocated to county governments be increased from at least 15 per cent to at least 35.

• Governors say no new function should be devolved unless money for those already unbundled is fully released.

Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya with colleagues address the press in Naivasha on November 10, 2020.
Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya with colleagues address the press in Naivasha on November 10, 2020.
Image: GEORGE MURAGE

The national government is planning to devolve more functions to the counties if the Building Bridges Initiative recommendations are approved in a referendum.

The Star has established that there are plans to revisit the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution and agree on more functions to be handed over.

The talks are being spearheaded by the Ministry of Devolution and the Office of the President in consultation with the Council of Governors.

The BBI task force has recommended a radical increase in resources to the counties — a situation that could leave the national government overburdened and cash-strapped. 

The report has proposed that at least 35 per cent of national revenue be given to the counties from the current minimum of 15 per cent.

The task force, which was chaired by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji, stated in the report that the national government should finalise the transfer of functions to the counties. It also recommended the elimination of duplicity of functions between the two levels of government.

“Follow the maxim ‘money follows functions’ in allocating money between the two levels of government,” the report handed over to President Uhuru Kenyatta four weeks ago says.

Attempts to get a comment from the Ministry of Devolution were unsuccessful as CS Eugene Wamalwa’s phone was off. However, the Star established that some of the functions being lined up to be unbundled to the 47 devolved units include school infrastructure.

Also to be left at the hands of governors are some aspects of security, disaster management, promotion of sports and sports education, as well as consumer protection.

On education, counties are currently mandated to only deal with early childhood development and education. This involves building nursery schools and hiring teachers. However, under the new proposals, the ward development fund will be used to build schools.

The BBI has proposed that five per cent of the total amount given to a county be set aside for development in the wards. This would be managed by a committee just like the National Government Constituency Development Fund. The NG-CDF will then be exempted from constructing schools.

The think tank, the Star has learnt, is also toying with the idea of having village elders, assistant chiefs, chiefs and subcounty administrators handed over to the counties to do away with duplication of roles. At the moment, they are recruited and remunerated by the Ministry of Interior.

At the advent of devolution in 2013, the first governors, under the chairmanship of then-Bomet Governor Isaac Rutto, put up a spirited fight for the abolishment of the provincial administration, terming it unconstitutional.

While agriculture and health are fully devolved functions, the national government has held on to a huge chunk of the budget, duplicating some of the functions done by the counties.

Last week during their retreat in Naivasha, governors unanimously agreed that in addition to the 35 per cent, all funds held by parastatals in national government departments performing devolved functions be transferred to the counties.

The county chiefs also called for their involvement in security matters at both national and county levels in the National Security Advisory Council, as well as the implementation of the County Policing Authority.

Yesterday, West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo said before more functions are given to the counties, the national government should first let go of funds meant for functions that have been unbundled.

Lonyangapuo told the Star on the phone that a huge budget for agriculture and health are still held in Nairobi.

“We have no problem with more functions being devolved but before we talk of proposals in the BBI, we want the monies being held at Afya House and Kilimo House remitted very fast to the counties. Why is the national government sticking with the functions meant for the counties?” he asked.

The governor said while money should follow functions to the counties, the National Treasury is still using the old audited accounts to determine the amount to be allocated.

“It is good to talk about the increasing percentage, but the enemy is in the details. Why is the National Assembly not fast-tracking the audit reports? The latest audited books that were used to determine the resources to counties is three years behind,” he said.

Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony said the so-called increase of minimum percentage“is a fancy name”, adding that the amount to the counties has been increasing since 2013.

Chepkwony, who also spoke to the Star, said unless there will be a different fund, the government should not give counties more functions.

“We are already at that percentage. No one should cheat Kenyans that there will be a boom in the counties. No difference. I can call it the status quo. The national government should just release funds to counties on time and let the funds for the functions devolved to counties,” he said.

Prof Chepkwony noted that with the BBI capping the ward fund at five per cent, the governors will not have much left to implement development projects.

Weighing in on the issue, former Mandera Senator Billow Kerrow held the view that there is nothing new in “ the purported increase of revenues to counties from 15 per cent to 35 per cent.”

Kerrow, who chaired the Senate Finance and Budget in the last Parliament, said that for the past eight years of devolution, total revenue allocations to the counties have ranged from 30 per cent to 43 per cent of the national revenue.

“Hence, purporting to increase revenues to counties from 15 per cent to 35 per cent is hot air! Revenues allocated to counties are based on functions transferred to them from the national government," he said.

"As a result, there is no way these allocations would have been lower than this percentage, based on functions already devolved during the Kibaki government. Uhuruto has not devolved any functions since taking office.”