Why Kenyans should focus on County governments

By Fauxile Kibet

Every five years, Kenyans go to the polls to elect new leaders. Following the inauguration of the new constitution in 2012, more resources were devolved to county governments, who were also given more responsibilities – to oversee development of their respective regions.

With devolution therefore, it now means that Kenyans should be more concerned on whom the elect to serve them at the county level i.e County Governor, Senator, Women Representative, member of national Assembly and Member of County Assembly and not much who becomes president.

The constitution as it is has the Senate and National Assembly which can both influence how resources are equitably divided across all counties and hence, it is easy to achieve equality in terms of development if the right leaders are elected to manage these funds.

According to the International Centre for Policy and Conflict, County Governments in Kenya need significant governance strengthening and comprehensive mechanism to effectively raise and manage own revenue.

The centre notes that the devolved system of governance that has been rolling out for the last five years in Kenya has recorded significant achievements in development butfinancial sufficiency and long-term sustainability remain a deep concern.

Five years into devolved system of governance in Kenya, the County governments are far from consolidating prerequisite institutions, systems and processes necessary to effectively delivery their mandate.

“County level, there is serious problem of waste of public resources in duplicative governance and development processes between the two levels of governments,” notes the body in a statement.

Devolution is the new frontier of bringing major changes in democratic governance, addressing inequalities and equal access opportunities and delivering quality services, and guaranteeing durable peace and security in Kenya. Counties are the wealth and job creation factories for Kenya.

However, County governments need  significant capacity and powers  to raise their own revenue in a bid to enhance financial sufficiency; strengthen fiscal responsibility and compensate the well-developed counties that stand to lose from a more equalization-based system of resource sharing transfers.

“The current revenue and taxation policy is fiscally unbalanced. The national government continues to determine fiscal and taxation policy with very limited participation of the county governments. The national tax revenue available for equitable sharing between the two spheres of the government is significantly retained by national government,” says Ndung’u Wainaina, Executive Director International Center for Policy and Conflict.

The ability for counties to raise their own revenues therefore, offers them a valuable degree of freedom that allows them to implement programmes of their own choice and size. This is an important step of realizing sustainable devolution financial autonomy.

According to Mr. Wainaina, the system of concurrent powers between the two spheres of government, gives rise to duplication, wastage of resources and the avoidance of responsibility for delivery outcomes.

Therefore, there is need for clarity in the assignment of powers and functions of concurrent responsibilities in certain critical sectors of the economy and governance at the county level.