- I have travelled to many counties and while some have greatly improved due to devolution, others are still lagging behind despite receiving billions of funds from the exchequer every year.
- It is ironical that some are agitating for more, yet they have nothing to show for what they have received over the years.
Counties are currently locked in a tussle with the national government due to delayed disbursement of funds by the National Treasury, a move they say has slowed down development.
I am a firm believer in devolution and I have seen it do wonderful things for our country. Let me start with my small village Gagra in Uyoma, Siaya County, where there were no roads. Every part was impassible, be it a rainy or dry season, but through devolution, the roads now have murram.
I have travelled to many counties and while some have greatly improved due to devolution, others are still lagging behind despite receiving billions of funds from the exchequer every year.
It is ironic that some are agitating for more, yet they have nothing to show for what they have received over the years.
I have seen county leaders build big homes, drive fuel guzzlers, and live like kings and queens while the people they lead are suffering.
Some governors have simply stopped minding the common man but only think about personal gain, leading to massive corruption.
The issue is not devolution, it is accountability. I wish Senators would do their job of being county government watchdogs. If we don’t work on accountability, we will see more of our money being hidden in tax havens.
This is not something we want to see but as Auditor General Nancy Gathungu said this week: “If you steal from Kenyans, invest it in Kenya, then perhaps we could see development in our country and then later we ask the question, where did you get it from?”
I know people were confused by what she said but what did she really mean? The Auditor General meant that corruption has been devolved.
I believe that with good leaders, Kenya can go far but only if the resources are used well. Already, the Controller of Budget (CoB) has flagged some of our counties for misusing resources.
According to a report released this week, in January 2023, the CoB declined financial requests worth Sh3.2 billion from over 20 county governments with the wrong classification of expenditure, an unjustified high wage bill and inappropriate budgeting for pending bills listed among reasons occasioning delays in the disbursement of funds from the National Government.
Like now, the country has been decimated by drought leading to hunger, and loss of lives and livelihoods but all these boil down to poor planning.
I want to give an example of Mama Rose from Usigu, Siaya County. She called me and requested that we help enlarge and deepen her community water pan in her village.
She saw an opportunity to get prepared ahead of the March-April rains so that she is in a position to collect water. Mama Rose’s concerns reminded me that we can do better when we listen to the people on the ground.
It is interesting that some counties from Nyanza are also crying about the effects of drought yet they have the freshwater Lake Victoria that can be used for irrigation.
The percentage of Kenya’s agricultural land stood at 48.55 per cent in 2020, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, and this is enough to feed our country and even export the surplus.
Don’t we understand climate change? Why do we make the same mistakes time and again?
We can pray about it but first, we must plan better as a country.
I am a firm believer in prayer and I remember as a poor teenager, most of my friends were praying to get jobs and yet they could not get out of bed to look for jobs.
For me it was different. I could wake up at 5 am, pray and go look for a job. Prayers alone without action are doomed.
I don’t want to sound pessimistic because I am not. I am a true believer in devolution and while there have been a lot of negatives, devolution has really worked in some counties.
Take for example Makueni where former governor Prof Kivutha Kibwana left them with fruit and milk processing plants, a thriving retail sector, and year-round medical cover at all public institutions for a subsidised cost, the best example of how devolution works.
If every county could do what Makueni has done, we would be far as a country since devolution has brought resources to the tiniest and most remote corner of Kenya.
I wish governors could see themselves as the future of Kenya and being and governor should give you a chance to run for a national position but what can some of them really show that they have done at the county level to deserve the national seat?
I am calling on the government to carry out awareness campaigns among the masses so that they know their rights.
I believe with good leaders Kenya can go far but only if the resources are used well. You will be surprised how the counties will be if we could listen to community members like Mama Rose.
Dr. Kennedy Odede, is the founder and CEO of Shofco, a member of USAid Advisory Board, World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, multiple humanitarian award winner, including 2022 Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year, best-selling author. Twitter: @KennedyOdede.