Friday, March 14, 2014

Some Reflections on Kenya's Devolved System one year later

One year since the devolved system of government was established following elections on 4 March, it is important we ask some questions in self evaluation. In my work around the country I have met people who are extremely excited about devolution and also those who are not sure we needed it. But many are those who argue that it is too early to make judgements as to whether it is working or not. But while some are concerned at the speed at which counties are getting their acts together, I am more concerned about the direction. It is possible to run fast or slow but if the direction is wrong then all the effort ends in futility. But how do we gauge whether we are in the right direction? We return to the basics of why we choose to devolve governance in Kenya.

Why did we choose the devolution system? There are several reasons advanced but my reading is that we devolved for four reasons namely, To address the excesses of  centralized government and especially an all powerful executive (read president); to enhance voice of the people in decision making; to take government closer to the people and hence improve service delivery and accountability; and to enhance equity in resource allocation.

The Constitution of Kenya, 2010 establishes a devolved system that shares powers and functions between one National Government and 47 County Governments. Their respective functions are assigned by Art 186 and Art 187 and Schedule 4. Thus devolution has to do with shared mandates in appropriating the sovereign power delegated to the national and county governments.

Key questions is to ask,

1. Are both national and county governments working to reduce the excesses of the centralized system? or do we now have 48 "central" governments with the county one being the office of the governors? are we making laws and policies that ensure we are taking service delivery to the lowest level that is practical to do so?

2. is the peoples voice being heard and represented correctly at all levels? can we now participate better with access to information than before?

3. Are public actors accountable for their actions? and is there effort to make this the mode of operation in all levels of governance?

4. Is there equity in resource allocation and service delivery both between and within counties?

5. Are we encouraging innovation in public service so as to meet the needs of our people?

While we cannot see the full results of the this introspection we can by looking at how the national and counties are running, tell if we are headed to the right place. Where we realize all is not well, it may be in order to stop and reflect.

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