The Council of Governors (CoG)  hosted to a two-day inaugural Devolution Conference held on 3rd and 4th April in Kwale County. The conference, titled “One Year into Devolution: Celebrating the Milestones, Overcoming the Challenges” saw leaders from across the country descend upon Kwale to reflect and learn from the experiences they faced in implementing devolution.

Speaking at the event, the Chairman of the Council of Governors and Governor of Bomet Isaac Ruto urged participants to engage in dialogue to bring about positive transformation in the country and recommit to the devolution promise. Brought about by the Constitution of Kenya 2010, the devolved structure of government was designed to provide autonomy by decentralising power and resources to bring about greater inclusion in decision-making,and result in more widespread representation, improved service delivery, and increased accountability, responsivity and transparency in government.

Devolution has shown great promise, as evidenced by notable efforts in counties that have been led by communities and its citizens at the driver’s’ seat, guiding the planning, design, prioritisation and implementation of projects that address issues that they uniquely face. Investments in the agricultural sector, the revival of youth polytechnics and the construction of dams and boreholes to increase access to clean water are just a few examples of the accomplishments by county governments in the past year.

However, despite the encouraging achievements, devolution has had several obstacles that, outlined by Governor Ruto to be:

  1. The County Governments are currently inadequately funded. With minimum allocation from the National Budget, and reluctance to overburden the citizens with taxes, the County Governments have inadequate funds to competently perform all their functions.
  2. Losing out on the economies of scale. The joint performance of functions has cost benefit effects, including economies of scale. This affects provision of water, roads, bridges, power, health among others.
  3. There is duplication of roles between the various authorities. Some roles are overlapping and some have not been directly allocated. This lack of clarity causes confusion and delays the process of devolution.
  4. Denial. There are those who do not believe Devolution will work despite the fact that it clear to all that it is indeed working and we cannot turn the tide back.

In a statement released at the close of the forum, stakeholders pledged their commitment towards service delivery, good governance, inter- and intra-county coordination, accountability, and cooperation with county and national governments. To tackle their challenges in realizing a transparent, accountable and responsive government, the resolution outlined the need to enhance civic education, prioritise community development, and called for county governments to open up channels to communicate and collaborate with each other. The statement also reaffirmed its commitment of county governments to be accountable not only to the citizens of Kenya, but also oversight institutions and declared that the conference will be held annually.

What are your thoughts on the opportunities and challenges that counties have faced in the past year? What are your recommendations on strengthening devolution in the year ahead? Let us know in the comments below or tweet @Open_Institute.

For more information on the Devolution Conference, you can follow @KenyaDevolution and hashtag #DevCon2014 on Twitter, visit the event website at http://conference.cog.go.ke, find out more about the Council of Governors through their official website, http://cog.go.ke, and follow Open Institute’s journey to Kwale below: