A memo to new county chiefs: The hard part of governing starts nowMonday August 29 2022
This past week 45 county governors were sworn into office following a rigorous campaign and vote by citizens. Congratulations to the seven ladies and 38 gentlemen who won the approval of the county electorate to serve them over the next five years.
Except for a few cases where speakers at the swearing-in ceremonies stuck to their campaign language, it was gratifying that in most of the events the new county chiefs struck a chord of reconciliation and put focus on the future. This is the focus that is needed. I would like to add a few ideas to them as they settle down to work.
First, campaigns are now over. The hard part of governing starts. You do not have the luxury of time. As many of you recognised as you sought the chance to lead, change is urgently needed and expected in each of the counties that you now lead.
You must not only clarify but also prioritise the change you promised. The window for change in any reform process is normally very short. In your case, the next six months are the most consequential. This is the period when you make the first set of appointments and develop your plans to guide you.
Your counties have abundant human resource capital. Unfortunately, the first 10 years of devolution demonstrate the dangers of not tapping this potential.
Your predecessors who went for sycophancy and not competence have left behind counties yearning for a turnaround in their development trajectory. Those who hired competence have built a solid foundation.
Assess which of these two categories your county belongs to. Either way, focus on quality human resources and not political expediency.
Loyalty is important but it alone will not spur the economy of your people. Focus on having quality executive committee members to help deliver on the vision you sold to the people. Competence and inspirational leadership are the foundation of success.
The legal framework that underpins revolution recognises that planning is a prerequisite for development. Planning provides the opportunity to interrogate the ideas, align the resources and prioritise the expectations. A few weeks ago, I was in a county and the administrators were berating a section of their citizenry for frustrating the identification of issues to focus on as part of the planning process.
The result was that nothing was captured for that area in the County Integrated Development Plans. This led to a lack of budgetary allocations for key services in that area. The preparation of CIDP is one of the other important first assignments you will be engaged in.
Spend time to honestly consult the citizens, debate the expectations and honestly debate the focus areas and projects. Done well it will help to provide a rallying point for you, your staff and the elected leaders in the county together with the electorate.
Not given the due attention it requires; you will be already on a path of uncoordinated and unsatisfactory service delivery.
Devolution remains the most transformative aspect of the country’s constitution. How citizens feel about the quality of governance will not be so much about what happens at the national level. It will be primarily about how you run the counties, whether you join those of your predecessors who are now multi-millionaires from county resources or those that are going to be remembered for servant leadership.
Over the next five years, you have the opportunity of making your county the best managed and where service delivery is the norm. If you do so you will earn accolades from across the country. It is doable. Just stick to the basics and do them consistently and honestly.