Challenges Facing Devolution in Kenya

ByBizhack Editorial

Sep 8, 2023
Challenges Facing Devolution in Kenya

Kenya’s devolution system, introduced in the 2010 Constitution, aimed to distribute power and resources more equitably across the country. However, the journey towards effective devolved governance has been met with various challenges and obstacles. This article explores the key challenges facing devolution in Kenya and suggests strategies for overcoming them.

By understanding these challenges and finding solutions, Kenya can unlock the full potential of devolution and achieve its goals of shared prosperity, improved service delivery, and enhanced citizen participation.

History of Devolution in Kenya: A Struggle for Equal Distribution of Powers

The call for devolution in Kenya dates back to the 1990s when the Safari Park National Conferences highlighted the need for a regional system that would ensure the equal distribution of powers.

However, it was not until the 2010 Constitution that devolution became a reality.

The Constitution created 47 counties, each with its own elected governor and county assembly, to manage local affairs and promote decentralization of power from the national government.

Despite the long-standing demand for devolution, Kenya faced several challenges in its implementation.

The ruling party, favoring the Provincial Administration system, initially sidelined the calls for equal distribution of powers and resources.

However, the failure of the Provincial Administration to address local issues and the growing demand for grassroots representation led to renewed discussions on devolution.

Advantages of Devolution in Kenya: Promoting Economic Growth and Inclusion

Devolution in Kenya has brought about several advantages that contribute to the country’s overall development. One of the key benefits is the support for economic and social growth.

With devolved systems in place, counties have the opportunity to implement growth strategies tailored to their specific needs.

This has led to the creation of employment opportunities and investments, driving progress at both the national and county levels.

Another advantage of devolution is the equitable distribution of resources.

Previously, resources and public institutions were concentrated in major urban centers, leaving rural areas neglected. Devolution has ensured that each county has an equal chance of growth, as resources are distributed more fairly across the country.

Devolution has also fostered diversity and inclusion. Minority communities and marginalized groups now have a voice in local governance, allowing them to participate in decision-making processes and manage their own development.

This has contributed to national unity by reducing the centralization of power and promoting a sense of ownership and belonging among different communities.

Furthermore, devolution has strengthened democracy and accountability in Kenya.

Citizens have the opportunity to choose their leaders at the grassroots level, and their direct participation in decision-making processes has enhanced transparency and improved governance.

Local governments are more responsive to the needs of their constituents, leading to better-informed decision-making and improved service delivery.

Disadvantages of Devolution in Kenya: Addressing the Challenges

Some of the challenges facing devolution in Kenya include increased cost of governance, non-uniform development across counties, Mismanagement of funds, Duplication of roles and responsibilities is another issue facing devolution in Kenya.

While devolution has brought significant benefits to Kenya, it also faces several challenges that hinder its full potential. One of the primary disadvantages is the increased cost of governance.

The establishment of county governments has led to an expansion of the political structure, with more seats and positions to be filled.

This has resulted in a larger wage budget, putting a strain on public finances and diverting resources from development projects.

Another challenge is the non-uniform development across counties. While some counties have made notable progress in infrastructure and public utilities, others are lagging behind.

This disparity in development hampers the overall goal of achieving balanced growth and requires additional efforts to ensure equal opportunities for all counties.

Duplication of roles and responsibilities is another issue facing devolution in Kenya.

There is often confusion and overlap in the functions of different levels of government, leading to inefficiencies and the misuse of resources.

Clear delineation of roles and effective coordination between national and county governments is crucial to avoid wastage and ensure effective service delivery.

Mismanagement of funds is a significant challenge that undermines the success of devolution. Some county governments have been implicated in corruption scandals, misappropriating funds meant for development projects and essential services.

This not only hampers progress but also erodes public trust in the devolution system. Strengthening financial management systems, enhancing accountability, and fostering transparency are essential steps to address this challenge.

Challenges Facing Devolution in Kenya: Overcoming the Obstacles

Despite the challenges, it is possible to overcome the obstacles facing devolution in Kenya and ensure its success. Here are some strategies to address the key challenges:

1. Strengthening Capability and Capacity in County Governments

One of the most critical challenges is the lack of capability and capacity in county governments. To address this, there is a need for comprehensive capacity-building programs that equip county officials with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively manage devolved functions. Training programs, mentorship initiatives, and knowledge-sharing platforms can all contribute to building the capacity of county governments.

2. Enhancing Coordination and Collaboration

Clear coordination and collaboration mechanisms between national and county governments are essential for effective service delivery. Developing frameworks for intergovernmental cooperation, fostering regular communication channels, and establishing joint planning processes can help overcome challenges related to overlapping responsibilities and duplication of roles.

3. Promoting Transparency and Accountability

Transparency and accountability are fundamental principles for successful devolution. County governments should establish robust financial management systems, including regular audits and strict adherence to procurement guidelines. Engaging citizens through mechanisms such as public participation and social audits can also foster transparency and hold leaders accountable for their actions.

4. Ensuring Inclusiveness and Participation

Devolution should be inclusive, ensuring the participation of all segments of society, including marginalized groups and minority communities. Engaging local communities in decision-making processes and involving them in the planning and implementation of development projects can promote inclusivity and empower citizens to take ownership of their development.

5. Strengthening Revenue Generation and Management

County governments should explore innovative ways to enhance revenue generation to reduce overreliance on national government transfers. This can be achieved through strategies such as promoting local industries, attracting investments, and exploring alternative sources of financing. Sound financial management practices, including effective revenue collection and prudent resource allocation, are also crucial for sustainable development.

6. Continuous Monitoring and Evaluation

Regular monitoring and evaluation of devolution processes are essential to identify areas of improvement and address emerging challenges. Establishing mechanisms for performance assessment, conducting impact evaluations, and sharing best practices can contribute to evidence-based decision-making and foster continuous improvement in the devolution system.

By implementing these strategies and addressing the challenges head-on, Kenya can harness the full potential of devolution and achieve its goals of shared prosperity, improved service delivery, and enhanced citizen participation. Devolution has the power to transform Kenya by bringing governance closer to the people and empowering local communities to shape their own destinies. It is a journey that requires collective effort, commitment, and resilience to overcome the obstacles and build a better future for all Kenyans.

“Devolution is not just about shifting power and resources; it is about transforming lives and creating opportunities for all Kenyans.” – Unknown

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