Economy, Leadership

Why The 10th Anniversary of Devolution Must Be a Time of Intense Reflection

One of my favorite Swahili say­ings is – ibil­isi wa mtu ni mtu. Rough­ly trans­lat­ed, it means that a man’s dev­il is the man him­self. In oth­er words, we are our own worst ene­mies. Keep that in mind as we take a deep, hon­est look at the ten years that devo­lu­tion has been pul­sat­ing through Kenya.

The big ques­tion that we must ask is this – are there some devolved func­tions that should be hand­ed back to the nation­al gov­ern­ment? In the same breath, are there nation­al func­tions that should be devolved?

A report by the Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Rela­tions Tech­ni­cal Com­mit­tee (IGRTC) shows that 10 years after devo­lu­tion, there are func­tions that are still being under­tak­en by the Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment. In this regard, the nation­al gov­ern­ment should by pol­i­cy and prac­tice enable, not sti­fle devo­lu­tion. How­ev­er, Coun­ty Gov­ern­ments should rise to the occa­sion and imple­ment all devolved func­tions opti­mal­ly. They are not doing so in the health sec­tor. Strike notices from health work­ers are com­mon­place. So are want­i­ng ser­vices in Coun­ty hospitals.

Many coun­ties are peren­ni­al­ly broke, some­times unable to pay coun­ty staff. They often blame delayed dis­burse­ments from the nation­al gov­ern­ment. How­ev­er, coun­ties are falling short in gen­er­at­ing their own revenue.

A Study by the World Bank and the Com­mis­sion on Rev­enue Allo­ca­tion (CRA) revealed that in the last finan­cial year alone, Coun­ties had the poten­tial of rais­ing Shs216 Bil­lion. Yet they raised only Shs40 billion!

Cur­rent­ly, Coun­ties raise rev­enue through sev­er­al means that include Land and prop­er­ty rates; Park­ing fees; Mar­ket fees; Lease rents; Hos­pi­tal charges and sin­gle busi­ness per­mits. Clear­ly, Coun­ty gov­ern­ments should expand their rev­enue col­lec­tion bas­ket. They can do these by imple­ment­ing sev­er­al interventions.

Pri­mar­i­ly, Coun­ties must ful­ly dig­i­tize rev­enue col­lec­tion. Reduced human inter­ac­tion dur­ing rev­enue col­lec­tion dri­ves down cor­rup­tion. Fur­ther­more, accord­ing to the World Bank, Coun­tries col­lect­ing less than 15% of GDP in tax­es must increase their rev­enue col­lec­tion to meet basic needs of cit­i­zens and busi­ness­es. The same is true for coun­ties. Unless they raise their rev­enue col­lec­tion thresh­old, they will con­tin­ue falling short in ser­vice delivery.

Fur­ther­more, Coun­ties must urgent­ly revise their cur­rent val­u­a­tion roll which is osten­si­bly based on very old rates and val­ues. That’s symp­to­matic of out­dat­ed poli­cies that work against coun­ty growth. For instance, it is pos­si­ble that a build­ing host­ing a five start hotel  locat­ed at the Nairo­bi City Cen­tre is based on a val­u­a­tion roll that was set in 1980’s which leads to col­lec­tion of extreme­ly low rates. In the same vein coun­ties need to keep an updat­ed data­base of all rev­enue streams and leg­is­late the same to ensure a sci­en­tif­ic approach to rev­enue collection.

Despite these chal­lenges, evi­dence on the ground proves that devo­lu­tion is working.

As a case in point, the Nyeri Coun­ty Gov­ern­ment boost­ed a farmer’s cooperative’s oper­at­ing cap­i­tal with a Shs20 mil­lion grant. The Coop­er­a­tive soci­ety locat­ed in Mukur­wei­ni then actu­al­ized their dream by con­tribut­ing a fur­ther 29 mil­lion towards equip­ping a milk val­ue chain. Con­se­quent­ly, they are now employ­ing 400 peo­ple and pump­ing ksh70 mil­lion into the local econ­o­my every month.

In Makueni the Coun­ty Gov­ern­ment has set up Ear­ly Child­hood cen­ters across the coun­ty. This mas­sive invest­ment into chil­dren will pay div­i­dends for years to come. In Sam­bu­ru, the Coun­ty Gov­ern­ment has estab­lished  One stop Cen­ters for moth­er and child where expec­tant moth­ers can move into a hold­ing house days ahead of their giv­ing birth. This is low­er­ing mater­nal mor­tal­i­ty rate, thus sav­ing lives of both moth­ers and infants.

Mov­ing for­ward, Coun­ties must mod­ern­ize agri­cul­ture because it remains the main­stay of Kenya’s econ­o­my. Even more inter­est­ing­ly is the in-depth focus on blue and green econ­o­my that sur­rounds us whose immense wealth is mind boggling.

In the final analy­sis, devo­lu­tion in Kenya will only work if we the peo­ple make it work. Back to the Swahili proverb we start­ed with, one sure way of being our own worst ene­my in devo­lu­tion mat­ters, is to devolve cor­rup­tion. Let’s firm­ly attack cor­rup­tion because it is our worst ene­my. Think green, act green!

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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