Archive | June, 2015

TURNING THE WHEELS OF DEVOLUTION IN KENYA: REFLECTIONS ON SERVICE DELIVERY AND ACCOUNTABILITY

24 Jun

By Javas Bigambo

(This is a transcript of the extemporaneous speech delivered by Javas Bigambo as the key speaker at the annual Kenya and Somali Expert Assembly of the GIZ (German Cooperation) held on the 23rd June 2015, at Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi)

GIZ Country Director Hendrik Linneweber, distinguished ladies and gentlemen.

I am grateful to be hosted by the GIZ fraternity to reflect among experts on the subject of CITIZENS AT WORK: SERVICE DELIVERY AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN DEVOLUTION.
I thank you all accomplished enthusiasts of development for doing all you do to make things work. I feel honoured to join with you in this hall.

My entire remarks are predicated on the primacy of the revolution in governance christened DEVOLUTION, the only third truly remarkable thing to have happened in Kenya. The first great thing ever happening was attainment of Independence in 1963; the second is the introduction of multiparty democracy politics in 1992; and the third being devolution, thanks to the 2010 referendum and promulgation 0f the Constitution.

Everywhere you turn today, you see attempts of communities in action. It is not in doubt that devolution is the future of communities for shared growth and shared prosperity.

There are numerous success stories from various counties which can be told, that demonstrate how devolved governance has effectively led to distribution of resources across the country in the counties; how communities are striving to identify their place through participation; access to leaders and services;

1) Improved health services delivery: In most counties, for the longest time in our history, residents had long been trapped in the tragedy of broken-down, insufficient health facilities, and numerous maternal death cases. Now the narrative is changing. Counties are registering improved health services delivery. More than 9,000 health workers have been employed across the 47 counties; health facilities are being given face lifts and getting equipped; construction of new health facilities is evident; ambulances have been purchased; drugs are now in most health facilities and maternal death cases are on a steady decrease. In Mandera County in 2014, the people came a live to the first ever Cesarean Section since Kenya’ independence. Lamu County is innovatively using speed-boats as ambulances, and Samburu County has come up with delivery Manyattas.

2) Water supply: Makueni County is making history on its part with approaches for increased water harvesting and storage, because water is a priority issue in that County.

3) Education: Around the 47 Counties, thus far, over 3,000 ECDE teachers have been employed, and County Governments are sparing no shilling to develop ECDE centers and scale up polytechnics and Medical Training Centers.

4) Agriculture: Farmers in many Counties are finding reprieve, and smiling all the way to the bank. In Murang’a County, the shilling has doubled for the dairy farmers because middle men or brokers have been eliminated, and marketing approaches have been enhanced. Across the country, Narok County has purchased milk coolers to increase milk storage and reduce wastage. Farmers in Trans-Nzoia like in the Rift Valley are receiving fertilizer and seeds at subsidized costs.

5) Infrastructure Development: Nearly in every County, there are evident works of grading or graveling of roads, or tarmacking. Machakos County has demonstrated how this can be done through their brand of Maendeleo Chap Chap, and rural areas in many counties are opening up for access. This will enhance mobility and access to services.
6) Trade Industrialization: County Governments and embracing technology and now angling for breakthrough in industrialization through evident efforts to make Private Public Partnerships to work.

These efforts and changes are evident to all of us, and no one can argue against them. However, in the thrilling changes of devolution, not everything is rosy.

I have traveled the length and breadth of this country, just as much as all of you, and I have been confronted by the same questions and challenges that have not eluded any of you. Why are people asking themselves too many questions about devolution? Three years after the roll out of devolution why is accountability emerging as a major challenge? These are things we all know to be true.
Record numbers are losing hope and sliding into despair. There is need for a turnaround in these formative years, to seal the gaps, enhance transparency and accountability, and renew the people’s hope in approaches to devolved governance.

The fundamental pillars of devolution are strongly enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya, and devolution is clearly the backbone of our Constitution.

Our challenge with devolution is very clear. Many people, far too many people don’t understand its layout and its objects. We all realise that uncertainty of political good will in transparency and accountability, and power politics remain a major challenge, and need urgent attention.

Three years now since the 2013 elections, we can firmly say that the amorphous nature of public participation without useful structures in place makes far too many people find it difficult to engage with the leadership. I am referring to public participation in three perspectives: public participation as a process, public participation as a space or platform and public participation with regard to capacity. Without access to information people and communities cannot effectively participate in decision making and furthering the development agenda in devolved governance.

Public awareness levels are still low, just as much as literacy levels, and this is greatly exploited by cunning politicians. Less informed communities are a weakness in the progress of devolution. County Governments too must go further in packaging and disseminating information. Much possibly is being done, yet much remains unknown to the public.

County Assemblies too are mostly filled by semi-illiterate politicians who now engage in wanton plunder of resources. Just check around, and you will realise that more than half the big contracts and machines in County governments are superintended by those in power, to their own companies through proxies, and common citizens have only a 2 percent chance to win tenders. That is the reality in which we live.

There is need for enhanced safeguards in devolution. Constitution implementation is a must but should not be the only safeguard. The power in the hands of the people must be enhanced by fast-tracking the enactment of a comprehensive Public Participation Act; there is need to lobby for the amendment of the Elections Act 2012 to make sure that every holder of an elective position must be a degree holder.

Legislation, policy formulation and oversight are not simple things, they are complex. You cannot legislate when you are semi-illiterate. This tells you why the quality of legislation is compromised.
Perchance in times ahead we may need to have in place a body that can police public participation mechanisms across all the Counties, and strengthen this principle.

Further, the need to leverage devolution’s success on technology; transparency and accountability; leadership and integrity, and Constitutionalism needs no emphasis.

We find ourselves at a point in time where we must ask ourselves hard questions, for our own sake, and for the sake of communities, and self-analyse, and determine whether we want to look at devolution as an instrument of ethic fiefdoms and corruption, or as an instrument of hope and prosperity in the hands of communities.

Challenges are rife, and seem to get compounded. Border conflicts between Counties are on the rise; ethnic chauvinism is now at unprecedented levels, and most recently, the flexing of political muscles between the Senate and the National Assembly nearly brought the functioning of County Governments to a halt. The speaker of the National Assembly and the speaker of the Senate are always at odds, and often speak at cross purposes.
These are challenges that we must agree exist, and face them with appropriate measures.

The challenges faced by County Governments with regard to Private Public Partnership need attention too. The bureaucracies and attendant challenges must be reduced, especially by the National Government. PPPs must be made to work for the Counties, just as much as County Governments themselves need have their capacity in the planning component scaled up.

Additionally, Counties need to go beyond the formulation of CIDPs. It is regrettable many residents across Counties remain less involved in development. Most County Governments have not publicly shared their CIDPs. No County has translated their CIDP into Kiswahili. It is necessary and proper that important national documents be made available and functional. The Constitution of Kenya too is printed in the English language only. There is no official translation of the Constitution into Kiswahili. This leaves out many Kenyans, and denies them the chance to understand the supreme source of law in Kenya.

From my experience as a consultant in governance, devolution and development communication, I find it necessary that for future strengthening of devolution, to have in place a framework called Counties Peer Review Mechanism, a platform that could help County governments to caucus among themselves as accountability partners. This can be something modeled around but more functional than the Africa Peer Review Mechanism among African countries.
It is time for everyone to value devolution, and for devolution to be of value to everyone, not the privileged few.
It is important for us to shepherd ourselves around common goals and aspirations, that tether us to those values and principles of good governance lifted and consecrated by the Constitution.
Kenya needs partners in this endeavor.
Communities and Counties need partners too, and you are in the right place. For the great support and commitment you continue to offer as GIZ experts and for the multi-sector support as development partners, you certainly deserve the thanks of all people.

Javas can be reached on mail through jbigambo@interthoughts.co.ke