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GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Has devolution lived up to its billing?

While there are exemplary counties, such as Makueni, the vast majority have been total flops.

In Summary

• The local mama who toils day and night to eke out a living for her and her children has nothing to show for it.

• Politicians have not allowed her to reap the rewards of devolution

After the 2013 General Election, under the new Constitution, Kenya began implementing the devolved system of governance. In accordance with Schedule One of the Constitution, the country was divided into 47 counties. Each of these units has a devolved government consisting of a county assembly and an executive. Under the leadership of the governor, who heads the executive, each county is expected to promote development and further decentralise service provision.

Article 174 provides the objectives of devolution to include promoting social and economic development and the provision of proximate, easily accessible services throughout Kenya; facilitating the decentralisation of state organs, their functions and services from the capital; and enhancing checks and balances and the separation of powers.

Almost five years since the onset of devolution, the people are yet to realise the objectives of the decentralised system of governance.

Before devolution, Kenyans decried poor service delivery and lack of government presence in improving matters within their localities. Regions of minorities such as Northern Kenya and Coast as well as traditionally opposition regions such as Nyanza and Western, complained of being left out in the provision of government services.

So far, devolution has not lived up to its billing. Kenyans are living in worse economic times than before, with skyrocketing prices of basic commodities, heavy taxes and dilapidated infrastructure. It would seem the only item that devolution has been able to successfully devolve is corruption.

With the centralised system of governance, where all services were based in Nairobi, it was difficult to argue the contrary. It was in this context that the country adopted devolution – to spread the distribution of the national cake.

With the devolved system of governance, many hoped that their livelihoods would improve. Schedule Four of the Constitution provides for functions of county governments to include key areas such as agriculture, healthcare, pre-primary education, village polytechnics, homecraft centres and childcare facilities, county transport, trade, planning and public works.

Service delivery is the primary duty of any national or sub-national government across the world. The people go to elections on the backdrop of campaigns, centred on political parties’ manifestos that seek to offer the best in terms of services to spur development and improve the living conditions of the people.

The very essence of democracy is to give a chance to a certain political team to deliver the said services, failing which the people get an opportunity to either give the same political team more time to deliver or bring in another political team. While the county governments have engaged in several development projects, there remain major concerns over their performance in key areas such as healthcare, education, infrastructure, water and sanitation.

Recently, the Auditor General’s report revealed billions of shillings were lost by county governments through corruption and maladministration. The Senate has been summoning governors to explain the loss of funds and inform Kenyans about their performances.

While one or two queries about the Auditor General’s report have been justifiably raised, majority of the findings on lost funds remain unexplained. Pointing to wanton waste and plunder of public resources by the same devolved governments that Kenyans had placed many hopes to improve their livelihoods.

While there are exemplary counties that have given hope and faith in devolution, such as Makueni, the vast majority have been total flops. Governors have become demi-gods, living flashy lifestyles and wielding undue political power.

They and their cronies have forgotten the constitutional promise of improved infrastructure, quality healthcare and better education. Instead, we see palatial governors’ mansions, expensive fuel guzzlers and unending state functions for feasting and merrymaking. Where are the wananchi in this entire equation?

So far, devolution has not lived up to its billing. Kenyans are living in worse economic times than before, with skyrocketing prices of basic commodities, heavy taxes and dilapidated infrastructure. It would seem the only item that devolution has been able to successfully devolve is corruption.

The local mama who toils day and night to eke out a living for her and her children has nothing to show for her hard work. Politicians, both at the national and county levels, have not allowed her to reap the rewards of devolution. But remember, mama has a limit. When she reaches that limit, she will have no other choice but to explode. When she does, a revolution is nigh!