In Summary
  • Counties have stockpiled so many unpaid bills and created a new problem at the grassroots – impoverished local suppliers and contractors.

  • Repeated directives by the National Treasury for them to pay have fallen on deaf ears.

  • But rather than whine, President Kenyatta should deal with corruption and wastage at the counties.

The country witnessed remarkable transformation soon after the introduction of county governments in 2013. For the first time in history, all regions were allocated a proportionate share of the national budget, in line with the 2010 Constitution. Counties quickly embarked on mapping out developmental needs and accordingly allocated resources and implemented projects. Infrastructure including roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and water projects were rolled out.

But that was ephemeral. Numerous projects initiated at the counties have stalled and the vibrant economies stilled. Citizens’ hope of reaping the fruits of devolution has been diminished. All this is because of corruption, wastage, pilferage and poor resource management.

President Uhuru Kenyatta captured this last week as he expressed dismay at the sheer level of corruption and mismanagement of resources at the counties. Devolved units receive huge sums of money annually. However, they cannot show what they have done with the cash. To be sure, between 2013 and 2018, counties received some Sh1.7 trillion cumulatively in capitation from the National Treasury, which sum, if properly put into use, could transform the regions in a substantive ways.

Until 2013 when the counties came into being, all resources were allocated and used at the national level. Although in principle the resources were to be allocated and used to develop the country proportionally, that was not the case. Money and development followed politics. Resource allocation and development projects were skewed. Regions that produced the presidents or influential Cabinet ministers and politicians were favoured, receiving an inordinately bigger share of the national cake, to the chagrin of others. Devolution, which essentially provided for equitable resource disbursement to the counties was, therefore, prescribed as the panacea to the historical imbalances and injustices.

Regrettably, seven years of experimenting with devolution have not demonstrated any remarkable shift. If anything, corruption has simply been shifted corruption to the counties, creating intra-county imbalances and injustices. Worse, counties have stockpiled so many unpaid bills and created a new problem at the grassroots – impoverished local suppliers and contractors. Repeated directives by the National Treasury for them to pay have fallen on deaf ears.

But rather than whine, President Kenyatta should deal with corruption and wastage at the counties. Governors and cronies implicated in corruption must be penalised. Tough sanctions should be imposed on counties that fail to pay contractors. Let the President crack the whip to rid counties of this malaise.