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Problems facing Counties Revealed

Problems facing Counties Revealed
June 19, 2019 Eastern Newspaper
Corruption and late disbursement of funds by the National Government among key challenges affecting service delivery

By Simon Kobia

When the new Constitution of Kenya was passed in 2010, most Kenyans had great hope for better days that devolution would transform their lives. The new document was clear that devolution meant giving people the power to govern themselves and literally take power to the villages. They hoped that the new law was to promote social economic development and provide accessible services throughout Kenya; the Kenya citizens supported the new Constitution believing that it was to ensure the enhancement of checks and balances and the separation of powers. To ensure accountability in use of public resources.

These are some of the reasons why the new law was passed in jubilation and cheers across the country. The new structure of governance was expected to solve many problems that the country has been facing since independence. Among the challenges were youth unemployment, corruption, and generally poor service delivery from the Government.

Chapter Eleven of the Kenyan Constitution 2010 clearly states the objectives and the role of the county governments where among the highlighted areas include promoting the democratic and accountable exercise of power and fostering national unity by recognizing diversity.

The other is to give powers of self-governance to the people and enhance the participation of the people in the exercise of the powers of the State and in making decisions affecting them.

To enhance these laws the individual county government went ahead and created county Governments Acts of their own all aimed at improving governance and service delivery.

Unfortunately, most of these good provisions are now left in form of text that remains in government books and minds of the people. Many people are now crying day and night as a result of lack of accountability and poor service delivery from the governments they elected with high hopes.

Although a few county governments are performing well, many county governments are a replica of the National Government carrying with them the same problems that citizens were experiencing before devolution, if not worse.

The Mashariki News has taken time to look at this issue critically to reveal the problems facing the County governments and giving reasons why Kenyans will remain a disappointed lot.

Poor or little support from the National government

Since the establishment of the County governments, one of the biggest challenges the devolved units are facing is the poor flow of equitable share of revenue funds from the National Treasury to the county governments accounts. This is despite the fact that the law is clear on sharing the revenue, meaning the national government is obliged to automatically transfer county money to the counties unconditionally to enhance service delivery.

When the national budget is passed the treasury takes ages to transfer money meant for development and other uses to the counties, a situation that is crippling many county government projects despite the will of some governors to implement their campaign manifestos.

There are also incidences of poor coordination between the two levels of government especially on the areas of interpretation of policies and law, a good example being the classification of roads.

Political instability in the counties

Many governors and members of County Assemblies spend sleepless nights in trying to manage their political opponents who start campaigning against them immediately the election results are declared. In Meru, for example, the first Meru governor Peter Munya had a difficult time in managing the local politics where all members of Parliament were opposed to his ways of transforming the lives of the people of Meru. The current governor Kiraitu Murungi has surprisingly found himself in the same problem where the Senator and a good number of elected leaders are not supporting his development agenda. This scenario is repeated in the counties of Isiolo, Embu, Marsabit, Samburu, and Tharaka Nithi.

Tribalism and Nepotism

When governors take office, they come carrying their political supporters and sycophants whom they were with during campaigns, most of these people will be seen to be from close circles of the governors. They are among the people the governors trust most and they end up rewarding them with jobs and contracts through pre-arranged recruitment processes that may look good from far but in reality, far from good.

In the recent audit by the auditor general, no county in the upper Eastern region of Kenya had followed the stipulated percentage of ethnic balance in their workforce; many counties had more than 80% of their workforce from their dominant ethnic groups where the governor comes from.

Bloated wage bill

One of the best ways of rewarding political cronies has always been sharing job opportunities, either to people who campaigned for the governors directly or close friends and relatives of the campaigners. With an already existing civil service, the governors create positions to fit and address the big pressure from their supporters. This leads to duplication of positions and over-employment that eats the little resources that are available to run the counties.

It has severally been reported that many counties are using over 75% of their entire allocation in recurrent expenditure that has little or no impact on the poor citizens who are suffering in the villages.

Ineffective County Assemblies

The role of the members of the county assemblies is to represent the people who elected them in legislation and oversight on county government activities. Unfortunately, this has not been the case for the two governments that have been there since the enactment of the new law. Many MCAs have been seen fighting among themselves for selfish interests or supporting the governors in fighting the opposition. Many rumors are out on how the governors secretly hold meetings with some members of the County Assemblies to plan ways of ensuring that the governors have a majority say in the Assemblies.

In that scenario, if the governor is able to compromise majority members of the county assembly, then the big man runs both the Assembly and the Executive making the government lack checks and balances.

Lack of professionalism in County staff

Just like the way issues were in the National government, a good percentage of employees of the county governments especially those appointed by governors or were hired through some influence, lack the basics of serving the citizens, many are the times when bloggers and social media users who use the forums to support their favorite governments get well-paying jobs at the expense of other silent people who may not come out to publicly declare their support for the big men and women.


Both National and the County Governments have been in the media for the wrong reasons; plunder and misuse of public resources for selfish individual interests. The procurement of goods and services at both levels of government are characterized by incidences of public officers using their positions to enrich themselves by a way of asking for kickbacks from the suppliers.

This situation has led to the misuse of taxpayers’ money at the expense of serving them. Unfortunately, the government seems to have lost the war due to the politicization of the whole issue.

Citizens Ignorance

All these factors are as a result of lack of information and knowledge among the residents of the counties. This has enabled the leaders to take advantage of them and run their affairs as they wish.

When county assemblies and the Executive hold public participation meetings, they witness very poor turn-out due to poor publicity and lack of interest from the local residents who are the main stakeholders in any development activity and policy making initiative by the county government.

This situation has led to the passing of unpopular policies and execution of projects and programs that lack support from the local residents that sometimes cause confusion and rebellion leading to wastage of public resources.

During campaigns, some politicians sell ideas that are difficult to execute that fool the voters to support them and it becomes difficult for the same citizens to put their leaders to task while in office. Other politicians use money as bits to win support from voters, these leads to wrong choices where they send leaders in offices of power who later fail to deliver.

Bitter truth

It goes without saying that from the last seven years of existence of the county governments, the expectations of the Kenyans have not been met especially in the counties in the upper Eastern part of the country.

People seem to have lost hope in the future of this system of governance. Experts have proposed a change of the constitution in a referendum that is likely to be conducted before the next general elections to give Kenyans another opportunity to have a say on how they would like to be governed after a season of disappointments by the County and the National governments.

Kenya has many signs of a failed state where citizens look miserably hopeless and weak; a situation that has diminished their voice in governance.

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