Challenges Facing County Governments in Kenya

ByKenneth Nyabora

Sep 10, 2023
Challenges Facing County Governments in KenyaChallenges Facing County Governments in Kenya

This article focuses on the Challenges Facing County Governments in Kenya.

Ever wondered what it’s like to run an entire county in Kenya? You’ve got your work cut out for you. Between managing budgets, infrastructure, healthcare, education, security, and economic development across vast geographic areas, county governments in Kenya face immense challenges. With 47 counties each with their own local needs, limited funds, and bureaucratic red tape, where do you even start? How do you begin to prioritize and address the most critical issues to improve lives in your county?

Challenges Facing County Governments in Kenya

Some of the major challenges facing county governments in Kenya include:

1. Inadequate finances and delay in remittance of funds from the national government

The counties struggle with insufficient funds and delays in receiving monies owed from the national government. The counties are supposed to receive at least 15% of government revenue to carry out devolved functions like healthcare, but often face shortfalls and payments that come late. This makes it difficult for counties to effectively budget, plan and deliver services. More autonomy over county finances and timely release of funds could help address this challenge.

2. Cross county planning and development of some resources such as water and roads

Cross-county cooperation is key for developing shared resources. Water and road infrastructure don’t stop at county lines, so planning has to happen together.

Working as a region

Counties must coordinate to manage water resources that cross borders and build road networks connecting communities across counties. By cooperating, counties can avoid duplicating efforts and ensure integrated development. Regional cooperation may be challenging, but it’s necessary for maximizing the impact of limited resources. With open communication and a shared vision of prosperity for all, county governments can overcome obstacles for the benefit of citizens throughout the region.

3. Transfer of functions from the national government to county government

The transfer of functions from the national government to county governments in Kenya has faced various challenges. County governments now handle healthcare, transport, trade licenses and agriculture, previously controlled by national government.

However, many county governments lack enough skilled personnel and funds to effectively provide these services. Corruption and misuse of resources is also rampant in some counties. Lack of civic education has left citizens unaware of roles and responsibilities of county governments, leading to unmet expectations.

Also Checkout: Challenges Facing Devolution in Kenya

4. Corruption and mismanagement of devolved funds

Corruption and mismanagement of funds are rampant in many county governments.

County officials often award tenders and contracts to unqualified companies due to bribery and kickbacks. Funds meant for development projects end up in individuals’ pockets, leaving counties with half-done or substandard work. You, as a citizen, must demand transparency and accountability in the use of devolved funds. Ask hard questions about how and why certain companies were awarded tenders. Put pressure on officials to avoid shady deals and cronyism. The future progress of counties depends on responsible use of resources.

5. Tribal interests and leadership wrangles in making appointments and decisions

When it comes to county leadership, tribal interests often outweigh qualifications and experience. County governors and other officials frequently appoint members of their own tribe to key positions, even if they lack the skills or background for the role. This practice of favoritism leads to poor leadership and decision making.

6. Some counties are not well endowed with resources or have high population density

Some counties in Kenya lack essential resources or have large populations cramped into small areas, creating difficulties in providing services.

7. High density, low funding

Certain counties have populations packed into confined regions, putting a strain on resources. With more people to serve but limited means, county governments struggle to fund projects and programs for citizens. Rural counties may cover expansive areas but have smaller tax bases to draw from, limiting their budgets. Both scenarios hinder a county’s ability to adequately support residents’ needs.

8. Interference in their working by the national government

The national government in Kenya has a tendency to interfere in the working of the county governments, creating roadblocks and undermining their authority.

9. Duplication of roles in the county causes conflict between the personnel of the two levels of the government

The county governments in Kenya face challenges in coordinating with national government agencies operating within the counties. These agencies continue operating independently without collaboration with the county governments. This duplication of roles causes conflict between the personnel of the two levels of the government.

10. Structural overlaps – management of cities and urban areas differs from that of rural areas, with more services directed to cities and urban centers

Devolving power to Kenya’s 47 counties has led to structural overlaps in managing both urban and rural areas. County governments direct more services and funds to cities and towns, where most people live, rather than rural regions. This can strain county budgets and leave rural citizens underserved.

Wrapping Up Challenges Facing County Governments in Kenya

So there you have it, some of the biggest challenges your county governments face in providing services and meeting the needs of citizens. Corruption, lack of funds, inadequate staff, and poor infrastructure are huge roadblocks, but with political will, citizen participation, and strategic partnerships, county governments can start to overcome them.

It won’t happen overnight, but by focusing on transparency, accountability, and civic education, county governments can strengthen trust in the system and empower communities.

Every small step towards responsible leadership and community involvement is progress. While the challenges seem enormous, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

With determination, Kenya’s county governments and citizens can work together to build a brighter future. The road ahead is long, but the destination is worth the effort.