Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Letter to the Governors

Allow me to congratulate you for earning the confidence of Kenyans. Their gift to you is their vote and your gift back to them is service to all.. We have high expectations as to what devolution can and will achieve. Today you will be sworn in and will sit on the county government driver’s seat. We are all waiting with bated breath to see where you will take us. We will support you where we can. Two most important things to us is better representation of of our opinions in decision making and improved service delivery. This we know will take time, but please make sure it does not take forever. Soon you will tell us that you are not receiving enough support from the national government, but remember we elected you because we thought you are creative and convincing enough to bring government close to us. Please do not let us down on that.

As one who has been closely following the devolution theory and practice, I know that finance should follow functions. We are however concerned that the process of functional analysis is not yet done and hence we are likely to have it the other way round. Could you address this as soon as you are in office? It is only with clarity of functions that we can start the road of allocative and spending efficiency.

What exactly do we mean when we talk of improved service delivery? Kenyans in each county will expect that your government handles these 5 key issues par excellence.

  1. Allocative and spending efficiency: Kenyans want resources allocated to areas of service delivery that are of greatest need to them. For some, it will be to build markets, for others, to make access roads all weather, yet others, it is to ensure that they have water for domestic and commercial use. Please allocate according to the preferences of citizens. But while allocating well is good, spending well is much better. We will be expecting you to spend every coin where it is allocated and not allow room for wastage or under utilization of funds.
  1. Equity in service delivery:  We are at different levels of development and inequality is real to us. We hope you will ensure that services are delivered according to need and taxes payed according to ability. Avoid the trap of treating unequal persons equally for that only worsens inequality. Equity is not the easiest of the choices you will need to make, for we are very selfish and we all want the best roads to lead to our homes. But is that not what leadership calls for. 
  1. Accountability and Control of Corruption: We expect your government to simply tell us how much you have and where you spend it. No more. Tell us how many official staff you have and how necessary they all are. We trust you are good men and will stand against corruption in all its forms, but please put measures of transparency and let it be difficult for people to steal public funds.
  1. Quality of services: The quantity of services is important but the quality is even more important. We do not want to persevere in your county  because the options of migrating are few, so please, give us quality services. We better have few but  good quality services.
  1. Cost Recovery: We want to ensure that cost for delivery of services are recovered but done so in a way we all share the burden. Free things are dangerous so as much as you can, please do not promise free services. Let there be responsibility for citizens too. We may not like you for this but as long as we see value for money, we will pay faithfully.
  1. Clarity of functions that are to be carried out by the county government and national government. The citizenry have a lot of expectations but should you really blame us? some of your manifestos promised everything under sun.
  1. Citizen participation. This is the most progressive provision in the constitution, but its implementation will prove tricky.. This is because we all have opinions and need you to provide a space for us to air them out. You are required to consult and involve us in planning and service delivery at all levels of the county. Make that happen. Plan for it and budget for it too.
  1. Organization and capacity of the county public service. A lot of focus has been put on elected officials and those that you will appoint in the executive committee, but there has not been sufficient attention to the public service, yet these are the key people who will bring to fruition the county service promises
  1. Fiscal responsibilities which refer to how well you will raise revenue, how and where you will spend it, how you will manage the transfers from the national government and how you will deal with budget deficits including the options of borrowing. We know you are placing high hopes on the 15 per cent minimum coming from the national government, but that is not enough. How about you focus more on raising revenues so that the transfers come to fill deficits? What about borrowing? Will you lead us to more debt or more surplus?
  1. Further decentralization within the county. How do you ensure that services reach every corner of the county? How do you ensure that the urban areas and cities are well managed? What about sub counties, wards and villages? The principle of subsidiarity dictates that service delivery is allocated to the most practical level possible to do so. Therefore give us services where they will be effectively delivered. Yes we want a dispensary at our door step, but that will be of no value. Employ economies of scale and we will all enjoy the services.
  1. Lastly are Intergovernmental relations. You are a chief executive in your county and a diplomat out there. We expect to live and work in peace with our neighbors and the national government. Tame your tongue and sharpen your intellect.. Put our interests first and remember your competitors may not be other counties in the neighbourhood.

A wholistic picture of devolution will be a great treasure in the long run, so please seek the global picture of things even as you implement one part at a time. Make us believe that today’s sacrifices are for our better tomorrow. But as you work towards tomorrow, ensure we have some gains along the way. For this to happen, six things will be of utmost importance:.

In all this we are praying for your good health, clarity of mind and conviction of heart. Give us your best in all you are able to do.

In Service to God and Our Country 
Abraham Rugo Muriu

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