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New policy aims to end development agencies tussles among counties

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Council of Governors (CoG) Chairman Martin Wambora. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

Summary

  • After going through never-ending wrangling, the Council of Governors (CoG) sued six development authorities and the Attorney-General.
  • To end this push and pull between devolved units and RDAs, the Ministry of East African Community & Regional Development is now working on a Regional Development Policy 2021 (RDP 2021).

Since the advent of devolution in 2013, the national government has been embroiled in disputes with county governments over control of regional development authorities (RDAs).

After going through never-ending wrangling, the Council of Governors (CoG) sued six development authorities and the Attorney-General, seeking a declaration that integrated planning, coordination and implementation of projects and programmes is a function of county governments.

They also wanted part of the law governing the authorities’ establishment and functions to be declared unconstitutional.

The six development authorities—Lake Basin, Kerio Valley, Tana and Athi River, Ewaso Ng’iro South River, Coast and Ewaso Ng’iro North River Basin—control huge resources and are key in shaping the socio-economic fortunes in their spheres of operation.

To end this push and pull between devolved units and RDAs, the Ministry of East African Community & Regional Development is now working on a Regional Development Policy 2021 (RDP 2021), which Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohammed says will end the fight over these authorities.

According to Mr Mohammed, the policy, which is currently at the public participation stage, will ensure that effective planning, coordination and monitoring of the exploitation and management of the natural resources in Kenya.

It will also help in obtaining sustainable socio-economic development in the regions and the country at large.

“Following the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, some activities that were being undertaken by the RDAs were devolved to the County Governments, and therefore the Regional Development Policy is aligned to this development,” said the CS.

He says that the policy aims at resolving the contentious issue of clashing of roles between RDAs and counties as well as weed out duplication of functions.

“The overall goal of this Policy is to provide a framework to achieve sustainable utilisation and management of natural resources to spur harmonious, equitable and sustainable socio-economic development across the regions,” Mr Mohammed said.

Lake Basin Development Authority chairman Odoyo Owidi says both the counties and RDAs have to work together in achieving various development projects hence there is no need of clashing and duplication.

“Just like county governments, RDAs get their funds from the national government hence there is no need for fighting and that is why we have come up with this policy which will harmonise our activities with those of devolved units,” he said.

The county chiefs have consistently called for the scrapping of the parastatals whose roles overlap those of the devolved units, and their multi-billion-shilling budgetary allocation given to counties.

They variously point to the Presidential Taskforce on Parastatal Reforms (PTPRs) report that was released in November 2013, and which recommended that parastatals be reduced from 262 to 187.

The task force said 42 parastatals — mostly in the agricultural sector — should be dissolved, 28 merged and 22 others have their roles transferred to other institutions. Some 21 agencies were to be reclassified as professional bodies.

The idea was to rationalise the operations of the state-owned enterprises by removing overlaps, duplication and redundancies to eliminate wastage of public funds, enhance efficiency and bolster productivity.

Most of these affected bodies are still around today, however, and very much aligned to the national government.

According to Mr Mohammed, the new policy review is looking to redefine the treatment of these authorities at the national government level. It takes a view of the important role Nairobi plays in the management of basin-based resources if only to ensure that RDAs function optimally.

In a move to ensure that the RDAs execute their mandate efficiently and effectively, the Ministry recommends that a review of the Acts governing the RDAs be carried out, to align their functions with the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and also to develop supporting regulations.

“As the RDAs were established before the coming into force of the constitution there is need to review the legislations establishing the RDAs to realign their functions to discharge the national government functions as per the constitution. In addition, regulations are required to enable the effective carrying of the mandates, powers and functions performed by the RDAs,” reads the draft policy in part.

The policy also proposes coming up with a framework for planning, coordination and implementation of National integrated and multipurpose region-wide development projects and programmes.

Other policy objectives include Mainstream climate change resilience, mitigation and adaptation initiatives and other cross-cutting issues in the basin-based development, establishing basin-based research and development framework and an institutional framework for efficient basin-based development.

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