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State of Devolution in Kenya

In 1963 Kenya adopted a Majimbo form of government comprising 8 regions below the national government. We are revisiting the state of devolution in Kenya. Once again we have adopted devolution in Kenya. This is a pure form of decentralization. 

Each of these regions was headed by a president whose title was later changed to chairman due to political reasons. 

Majimbo system of government failed because they were denied resources. Research has always shown that resource allocation is both a political as well as technical process. 

Starting from 2010, Kenya adopted a devolved system of government. However, there is a feeling that devolution in Kenya is being undermined by some actors at national level. 

Governors led by the Chairman of Council of Governors (CoG) to protest the way in which Division of Revenue Bill 2019 was handled hence leading to delays in access to resources. 

“The Division of Revenue Bill, 2019 was subjected to mediation following lack of consensus between the Senate and the National Assembly with regards to County Government’s equitable share. The National Assembly initially proposed Ksh. 310 billion for counties, and later moved the figure to Ksh. 316 billion during mediation. The Senate conceded downwards from Ksh. 335 billion to Ksh. 327 billion. The negotiations collapsed,” said Wycliffe Oparanya. 

The governors further enumerated various ways in which devolution is being killed. One of them was formulation of centralized laws and policies. 

It is sad that the National Assembly has made Commission on Revenue Authority (CRA) irrelevant considering that their proposals and advice are largely ignored hence endangering devolution in Kenya. 

On 15 July, 2019 the Council of Governors (CoG) filed a law suit at the Supreme Court seeking for interpretation on three main issues around allocation of revenue to counties. 

The chair ended his statement by calling upon all citizens to support the process of saving devolution in Kenya. 

I agree that devolution is working although there are some outstanding issues on corruption, stalled projects and incompetence. 

Current proposals 

Currently, the Third-way Alliance (political party) has put forward a number of proposals and even collected one million signatures to compel the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to kick-start constitutional amendments. This is known as “Punguza Mzigo Initiative”  on devolution in Kenya. 

The initiative aims at:

a) Allocating at least 35 percent of resources collected nationally towards equitable share; 

b) Abolition of National Government Constituency Development Fund and in its place promote Ward Development Fund (WDF); 

c) Reduce number of Members of Parliament (MPs)- on this matters MPs will come out with smoking guns. 

Our predictions 

a) Members of County Assembly (MCAs) across the country are likely to support those proposals; 

b) MPs will oppose them by all means; 

c) Orange Democratic Party (ODM) has already expressed their displeasure and vowed not to support the Punguza Mzigo initiative; 

d) Council of Governors is likely to support Third-way Alliance party proposals considering that the seem to be in line with what the counties want. 

In conclusion, the proposals on reducing the cost of devolution in Kenya are populist but will face an hate-love relationship from various quarters. 

When I was hosted at a local radio station (Mtaani Community radio) this morning I expressed my views and said that this is just but the beginning by the time we are done with this debate, we’ll have arrived at some consensus. There is no need to fear sharing your thoughts on the state of devolution in Kenya.  

We will continue monitoring the Division of Revenue Bill 2019 debates till the end. Keep tuned. 

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