By Dr. M.Y. Elmi
Devolution is two years old and majority of the Kenya are in agreement that devolution is among the best historical event in post independent Kenya. The Kisumu conference which was a celebration of the second anniversary of devolution, was a manifestation of the interest generated by devolution in both national and global arena.
The performances of devolution are mixed reactions which vary from country to country. A survey recently conducted by Infotrak limited a local poll-star and research company released to the local print media assessing the performance of counties in service delivery in key devolved functions such as health care services, roads, transport, education, agriculture and prevention of pollution revealed fifteen best performing counties in Kenya and predictably Machakos was the top performer and Garissa was the only county in Northeastern region among the best performers.
Interestingly, counties led by former top civil servants and individuals with experience in managing public finance ranked highly in the survey.
The constitution of Kenya has provided opportunity and devolution has generated tremendous hope and realistic expectation in the population that could have changed the lives of the ordinary Kenyan through equitable distribution of resources. The common man expectation was the adaption of decentralization will guarantee against discretionary abuse of powers by the elites and bring dramatic transformation through new accountable and transparent institutions with all inclusive approach and firm focus on service delivery.
Kenya is a diverse country with diverse needs between different people and regions, the arid north and the central highlands have different needs for example in the health sector, while the central highland are burden by non communicable lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and cancers, the arid north is battling with preventable diseases of diarrhoeal and malnutrition largely associated with poverty and poor sanitation. The traditionally marginalized counties of northern Kenya which were lagging behind during pre-devolution era in development had opportunity to address and turnaround the regional disparity through appropriate use of the constitutionally guaranteed transfer of colossal amount of funds to the counties and the county leaders had the means and the autonomy to reverse situation and address the local needs.
So far Wajir county has received colossal amount of funds from exchequer conservatively estimated to be about Ksh. 13b for the county development and about 1.4b for CDF for the six constituencies in the county in the last two years of devolution, yet the county is listed as among the under performers. Samburu is one the top performers in the recent survey and a top performer in the national examination results of 2014. Let’s ask ourselves what is in Samburu and absent in Wajir County.
Truth be told, Wajir county is home of corruption and other social evils of mismanagement which hampered meaningful and focused development with strategies to reduce generalized poverty and underdevelopment. Yes some level of development took place , health facilities were upgraded, other built, water pan and boreholes constructed , yes few sycophants turn billionaires, few road were repeated murramed by the same contractors in most unprofessional and hazardous way, all at exaggerated and at exorbitant costs to the tax payers. Devolution was not to end at the county level , funds and function were further to be devolved at the sub- county up to the ward level that is why there are provisions for ward administrators.
Unfortunately most of the funds are stack at the county treasury( if not in personal accounts), under the authority of unskilled county executive officers and secretaries who were appointed more because of sycophancy and nepotism rather than skills, education and value added expertise, the really skilled civil servants, the water engineers, the health workers, the veterinary officers, the roads engineer etc are all starved of funds and cannot work. Most of the health facilities lack basic drugs and other essential supplies to the extent that there are no sutures for episiotomy after delivery and relatives are advised to buy these essential supplies including gloves and gauze.
For a county like Wajir with poor indicators of development parameters including, high maternal and child mortality, low sanitation coverage, inadequate safer drinking water at house hold level, poor roads infrastructure, lack of electricity and massive unemployment rate and high poverty levels among others, devolution provided opportunity for accelerated vertical takeoff by putting into place strategies to alleviate these monumental problems and prudent use of scarce resources was and still is paramount. The driving forces of any developmental agendas are corruption free and people centered strategies which are totally absent and abandoned in the case of Wajir County. So far devolution is a lost opportunity for the people of Wajir County. Wanjiku’s awards Wajir County is 25% for development and people’s satisfaction with service delivery.
All is not lost; the citizenry have the right to demand for better services, accountability and transparency from their leaders and the governments. Unfortunately the institution mandated to provide oversight authority on corruption, the EACC is victim of corruption to the extent the institution is currently dysfunctional. However devolution is not for the leaders, it’s a tool for development that belongs to the people of Kenya and it’s the cardinal responsibility of the people to make sure devolution works for the common man.
To the county governments of Machakos, Garissa , Bomet etc which made to the top performance list congratulation is well deserved, to the rest of under performing counties including my county of Wajir, this is time to roll up your sleeves and bring development to your people and ensure they are satisfied with the services you provide. Good luck
The Writer is the Director of Garissa campus, Mount Kenya University.