Decentralization comprises of devolution, delegation and privatization. Devolution is a key ingredient of democratic governance and a means of inculcating a democratic culture. Thus devolution refers to the transfer of administrative and political authority, power, resources, functions and responsibilities from central government to lower units such as administrative departments/ regions and especially semi-autonomous bodies/entities such as the 47 counties.

This transfer includes authority to plan, collect rates or local taxes and charges, make independent decisions and manage public affairs in their areas of authority or jurisdiction. In terms of powers between the state and its citizens, devolution as an aspect of decentralization means that power for decision- making is brought closer to the citizens. This is a way of recognizing the need for citizen’s participation in public affairs. Thus through devolution decisions are better shaped to match the needs of a given area!

In a nutshell devolution is the transfer of political duties, power and authority from central government to semi- autonomous lower units or institutions such as the County Government. It involves the transfer to County Government of functions that they can implement without direct control by the central government. These powers give them revenue and expenditure autonomy. It also entails transfer of power to make decisions independent of the central government in order to strengthen their capacity to deliver services and goods according to their priorities.

However the national and the county governments must cooperate, collaborate, consult, respect and work in harmony for they serve the same citizenry who belong to one nation/ country and share a common socio-political destiny in the global arena. Moreover, Kenya is one indivisible sovereign state with 48 governments although it is divided into 47 counties but has one sovereign state in the words of the preamble of the constitution. In other words in the body of nations only state called Kenya exists!

Devolution in Kenya’s scenario has two distinct but interdependent levels of government each with its clear duties as outlined in schedule 4 of the Constitution with principles of devolution outlined in Chapter 11 of Kenya’s Constitution 2010 especially article 174. Our devolution system is less than a Federal structure but neither is it a delegation controlled from the centre. The constitution under schedule 6 section 15 contemplates a phased transfer of functions to county governments over a period of not more than 3 years.

It is important to note that transfer of funds is of critical importance without which county governments will not have the capacity to perform the new functions as happened immediately after independence! I hope history will not repeat itself. In this connection, there is no need to continue having Provincial Commissioners because we don’t have provinces for Kenya is now divided into 47 counties. This is also applies to regional or County commissioners whose functions are not there in the constitution other than attempts to create a scenario of two centres of power. The county budget should be a preserve of the county assembly where the national government and the transitional authority have a limited role of advisory.

There is overwhelming need for the two levels of government to work together respecting each other. For instance the county security commanders should brief the Inspector General and also the Governor continuously because security issues will be in the social geography of a given County although security is a national government obligation! Article 189 of the constitution defines the relation between national and county government and how to settle disputes. In addition to that there is a summit bringing together the resident and the 47 governors with the President as the chair of the summit. It mandates it to resolve conflicts between the two levels through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) with court action as last resort.

By: Muthama Joseph Governance & human rights educator and Kutoka’s Program Officer.