By Henix Obuchunju
July 15 2019 will remain a memorable day to most Kenyans. In a case of reversed roles, our leaders took to the streets protesting over delayed disbursement of monies to the counties.
While Kenyans are used to seeing common mwananchi on the streets; chanting, displaying placards and demonstrating against something they feel is veracious, that particular day of the seventh month was awkwardly different. Alas! governors and senators matched to the Supreme Court in protest of delayed monies to counties which they termed as sabotage by the National government.
Folks, it appeared that these protesters could not convince the onyango’s, wanjiku’s and mueni’s to join them. Perhaps because the man on the street knew pretty well that “this money will benefit them and not us”.
That aside. On the 27th day of the same month, Baringo county, one of the devolved units, returned to the National Treasury Sh 2.4 billion unspent development cash – for the financial year that ended in July 2019.
I have not been to Baringo before but if what is reported by fellow journalists is anything to go by, then it is proper to observe that devolution is caged – and doomed for that matter – with county chiefs like governor Stanley Kiptis in office. Surely I tell you, with a leadership which is responsive to people’s needs in place, no cash would be returned to treasury.
Politics, according to one scholar, is about who gets what and how. And so governance experts will make you understand that devolution has democratized the political space especially for the marginalized communities in Kenya like those living in Baringo, meaning resources trickle down to the grassroots.
Whereas you will be taken aback at the happening in Baringo, some counties have demonstrated unique strengths and resources that offer a potentially useful peer to peer learning and self-reliance. It is easy to compare the performance of Baringo and that of Makueni County. Not because Kivutha Kibwana uses public relations as a validation tool like it has been alleged by others, but tangible projects are on the ground and locals can see and feel the impact of good leadership.
In its County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) 2018 – 2022, Baringo county leadership envisions a transformational agenda for its people through focused investment in all sectors of the Economy.
In fact, for the record, on the CIDP, Baringo county’s mission comes in bold: “To be the most attractive, competitive and resilient county that affords the highest standard of living and security for all its residents.” A fallacy is an error in reasoning. That mission statement vis` a vis` the reality on ground is a fallacy, isn’t it?
A county where dozens of people have been reported to have died of hunger should not only erase that mission statement but also have her senior officers convicted of economic crimes. Baringo county does not need to experience huge rollovers with challenges of poor roads, unreliable health system and stubborn water shortage.
A county where tension is the daily bread for some of its residents due to banditry ought to invest more on security. Some rules are here to be broken, goes a street parlance. Baringo requires serious leadership to scatter these widespread vices.
Yes! The CIDP is the dictionary for each county, but if challenges such as those of Baringo shall be addressed by abrupt changes to it (the CIDP) then who cares? After all, ‘the end justifies the means’
Miles away from Baringo is another jimbo, Nyandarua County, which emerged winner of this year’s World Bank ranking for top-performing counties under the Kenya Devolution Support Programme (KDSP).
Moreover, a look at the county assembly reports shows that only Nyandarua and Makueni received a clean bill of ‘health’ in the financial year 2017/18. This makes them the first counties to receive an unqualified opinion since the birth of decentralization.
Yet again, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics had at the same time ranked Nyandarua County as one of the best investment destinations. Truth be told, devolution has far much revolutionized development at grass root levels.
Although the greatest set back to devolution is inappropriate leadership, a number of them as is demonstrated in the foregoing, have managed to initiate projects that are beneficial to the people.
Some counties have upgraded and carpeted feeder rods making it possible for farmers to move their produce to markets with much ease. Worth mentioning are Kakamega, Mandera and Makueni.
“Devolution has impacted all sectors of the economy; it has and is transforming lives across County Governments. Infrastructure and Health have been the most visible” says Andrew Teiye a devolution expert.
Andrew insists that the impact is visible in the countryside. “Services are now closer to the people; new middle class has emerged. There should be no turning back on Devolution. It should only get better because the people of Kenya have tasted power and don’t need to wait for Nairobi to plan for a small road in their village.”
Unpleasant though, is that with devolution at its second phase, some governors are still in collision with their members of county assemblies (MCAs) with some counties failing to pass their budgetary appropriation bills within the stipulated time making it hard for the county governors to implement important projects.
Yet again in another county – Taita Taveta – is an acrimonious situation because the MCAs, County Assembly Speaker Meshack Maghanga and governor Granton Samboja are on a war-path.
In Nairobi county, Ward representatives had threatened to disrupt operations at the assembly if they could not get Sh 400 million from the executive for bursaries. The situation is reportedly worse in Murang’a county after the ouster from powerful committees of six MCAs who are opposed to the leadership of governor Mwangi wa Iria.
In his observation Mr Teiye opines there is still work to be done. There are counties like Busia, Kilifi, Taita Tevata, Tana River which are still lagging behind the rest. The difference is about leadership.
Indeed, in my opinion, nobody has addressee this issue much better than President Uhuru Kenyatta who lambasted the county CEO’s and ambassadors who were demonstrating in Nairobi to ensure first the prudent utilization of the little monies relayed unto the counties previously.
Monies from national government to devolved units are not supposed to fatten the bellies of a few individuals inpower but to render essential services to Wanjiku.