Opinion & Analysis

Let’s consolidate devolution gains

Council of Governors chairman Peter Munya addressing journalists during the fourth Devolution Conference in Naivasha on March 9, 2017. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Council of Governors chairman Peter Munya addressing journalists during the fourth Devolution Conference in Naivasha on March 9, 2017. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

By approving and adopting a new constitution more than six years ago, Kenyans made a commitment to ‘make Devolution work’ as the running theme and key flagship project of the political pillar of Vision 2030.  

This transformation in governance has enabled the citizens to enjoy a myriad of socio-economic benefits that were hitherto far from their reach.

Despite the countless and unforeseen hurdles encountered over the transition period from a centralised government to a new decentralized dispensation, Devolution has turned out to be one of the greatest achievements of Kenya’s new constitution.

Thanks to devolution of health, access to healthcare services has significantly improved since 2013, when the country started implementing devolution.

To date more than 1.2 million safe deliveries in health facilities have been recorded on the back of introduction of free maternity services.

Expansion of healthcare services across counties has also led to significant reduction of maternal mortality rate from 488 (in 2012) to 362 in every 100,000 live births, translating to 2,000 maternal deaths averted annually.

The devolvement of management functions of early childhood development facilities to counties has significantly helped to anchor a better foundation for most school going children, which will go a long way in reducing student drop-outs at later stages in school life that have been a challenge in the past.

What is outstanding is that resources are now being distributed to sub-national governments based on an objective and redistributive formulae that uses indicators such as, population, state of infrastructure and special needs.

Both in fact and perception, this revenue allocation method helps to boost equity and spreads urgently needed development to the most remote villages of the nation.

We owe all these successes to Kenyans who are the key stakeholders, public leaders, civil society organisations and private sector partners who made us reach these exciting and historical milestones.

It is evident that political and fiscal decentralization has thus enabled the shifting of resources and people to desired sectors such as manufacturing and high technology; facilitated the provision of public services and spurred growth in other sectors other than the traditional sectors, especially agriculture.

In addition, the policy focus on structural change and transformation has created the necessary impetus to strengthen and support appropriate institutions that make and implement decisions focusing on the developmental challenges in the country. Some of these include job creation, reduction in poverty; tackling inequalities and so on.

A key ingredient of this transformation is accelerated growth that is premised on improved productivity especially in agriculture as stimulus to demand and supply.

A World Bank report released last year has ranked Uasin Gishu as the easiest place to start a business in less than a month based on speedy registration process and property transfer that are attributed to one-stop shops, Huduma centres.

The goal of touching every corner of the nation is real. For instance, we now have tarmarcked roads in Lodwar and Maralal.

After close to five decades, residents of the Eastern part of the country can smile with joy with access to clean water through a number of water and borehole drilling programmes.

More villages have also been connected with electricity thanks to the Digital Literacy Programme that has seen over 23,000 public primary schools connected to the national grid.

This has resulted in increased economic activity in our rural areas and stronger connectivity between our people.

To address persistent drought cycles in hard hit areas like Wajir, Turkana and Marsabit, the cash transfers programme is now an outstanding life-saving initiative and source of livelihood that has enabled residents in these places to engage in economic activities.

Previously, it was unimaginable that such areas could be opened to sustainable businesses. Sleepy villages have now been spruced up to play host to county government infrastructure, new learning institutions of higher learning and factories.

All these are dividends we are reaping through the decentralization of power. Let us all reflect, give a fair assessment on the gains and remain vigilant as we head towards the August 8 General Election in order to safeguard these achievements and look for ways and areas of improvement.