PRESS RELEASE: MOVING KENYA FORWARD
Nairobi, May 2, 2018
AHEAD OF ADDRESS OF STATE OF NATION IN Kenya, International Center for Policy and Conflict (ICPC) recalls that Kenya acceded to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) in March, 2003 covering four thematic areas of the review, namely democracy and political governance; economic governance and management, corporate governance and socio-economic development. APRM concluded in 2006 that, among the “major factors that have stoked the fires of dissension in the country are marginalization of the regions as well as regional imbalances, competition for resources and access to them, and the mobilization of ethnic identities in political and economic power struggles”. APRM’s Report recommendations implementation was shelved with consequences.
We recall that on February 1, 2008 under mediation of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, he reiterated that the Kenya’s political solution could only be anchored properly under a “broad reform agenda and other mechanisms” to address the root causes of the recurring political crisis. The mediation team noted, “Poverty, the inequitable distribution of resources and perceptions of historical injustices and exclusion on the part of segments of Kenyan society constitute the underlying causes of the prevailing social tensions, instability and cycle of violence.” It firmed issues that needed to be tackled included constitutional reforms, tackling poverty and inequity, tackling unemployment especially among the youth, consolidating national cohesion and unity, undertaking land reform and addressing transparency, accountability and impunity.
The inability, or unwillingness, of political leaders to break with the colonial practice of divide and rule is the country’s gravest weakness. Poor political leadership has been the central issue, rather than the colonial legacy per se. No amount of handshake will make a difference to tackle what has already been identified and well documented as the main cause of Kenya recurring political crisis.
We know that a more open, more accountable governance system must be the foundation on which healthy democracy and prosperity are built. We are not alone in wanting to push greater transparency and accountability in governance. This is in our national interest. We will not relent.
The National Crisis
On August 4, 2010, Kenyans voted in a national referendum in favor of a new constitution, concluding a push for constitutional change that began more than 20 years ago. With more than 67 percent popular support, the passage of a new constitution symbolized promise and hope in a country where political and ethnic divisions have remained high since the violent aftermath of the disputed December 2007 elections.
One core objective of New Constitutional order was institutionalizing good governance in practice i.e. establishing progressive national values system that respect and uphold human dignity; entrenching firm policies and principles governing national ethos and delivery of services; and formation of effective, efficient and competent democratic institutions that deliver to the Kenyan people. These are the linchpin of democratic systems.
However, several key provisions of the Constitution 2010 and agreed broad reforms under Kofi Annan mediation And APRM process that could have deepened democracy, assisted in resolving recurring political disputes and built effective, accountable and inclusive institutions remain diluted and or unimplemented. This has compromised the independence, professionalism, and power of crucial public institutions, eroded the basis and mechanisms of implementing the principle of the popular sovereignty, the enforcement of the citizenship rights and equality, and providing peaceful means of resolving electoral competition. It is the major source of instability, intolerance and democracy decline.
Reforming the electoral system, building stronger institutions of governance, and improving governance transparency are key steps to deepen democracy in Kenya. Further there is need to devolve and distribute more power to autonomous county governments, and strengthen checks and balances, and the rule of law in exercise of power.
Devolved Governance Reforms Agenda
1. Challenges facing devolution:
The transitional authority mandate came to an end on 4th of march 2016. It had only managed to transfer a fraction of devolved functions to the county governments and was yet to transfer the functions of parastatals and state corporations. Even with the fourth schedule outline of functions for each level of government, the national government still retains a majority of the devolved functions and the resources allocated therein and in so doing, county governments are deprived of their constitutional mandate and funding. There is a clear failure on the national government’s part to respect the role of counties in the devolved structure. The national government continues to fund national ministries, departments and agencies to undertake already devolved functions in competition with the county governments. In some instances, the national government takes over county functions through a funding mechanism known as conditional grants which are however managed at the national level in total disregard of the constitution and public finance management Act 2012. The latest example is the BIG Four Agenda which squarely fall under the devolved system of governance. The national government has also demonstrated a peculiar contempt not to consult county governments on operationalization of important national government policies that have a direct bearing on devolution. Moreover, while discharging the already unbundled functions, the county governments are met with opposition, sabotage and direct competition from the national government ministries, departments and agencies performing the same functions.
The national government has also not been keen to reform the administrative policy and legislative regime at national level to accord with and respect the devolved system. The provision in section 17 of the sixth schedule should not be taken to have meant only the officers in uniform but also other staff in line ministries at the different levels. There still exists a cohort of stuff ranging from support to technical performing which are already devolved functions resulting in duplication and wastage of public resources. There is no constitutional justification for a bloated national government bureaucracy in the context of devolution.
2. Key devolution reforms needed:
For more than 50 years, the overly-centralized governance has brought Kenya nowhere. It has created more ethno-political divisions, economic exclusion, socio-political intolerance and devastating inequality. We must deepen devolution of governance and equitable local economic development. Devolution is irreversible. It is the most effective instrument to bring long-term stability, transform local economies, build accountable institutions and entrench the rule of law.
Kenya should have a fully devolved governance system. The country must be fully restructured and devolution of powers, functions and resources needs to entrench true federalism. Each County should have its own Constitution and well structured government with different branches. Ensuring greater entrenchment of federalism is the cardinal political and governance outcome where less duties, power and responsibilities will be given to the national government. While Counties remain a political entity of the Republic of Kenya, they should have autonomous sovereign rights and powers. Until the Counties are strengthened and made viable, the Republic of Kenya cannot be strong.
We need devolved government units that are capable of catering to the needs of their constituencies. They must be given real autonomy balanced by accountability: The next step for devolution must be game-changing. Kenya needs strong, effective, and empowered county governments which can weather upheavals and build local democratic structures fit for future generations.
The Devolution conference in Kakamega just like the last four(4), is grossly failing to address the elephant in the room: Restructuring, reordering and realigning national government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to accord with and respect devolution, incomplete transition, and unbundling and costing functions.
ICPC recognizes there are a number of challenges in creating larger and stronger Counties; but these challenges are not insurmountable. If the country does proceed with of the option for creating larger counties in the future starting with strong cooperation counties blocs, there will be early practical support to county governments.
a. More Devolution and Autonomy:
To address this, the issue of local finance must also be tackled. Not only does devolution have the potential to neutralize the age-old socioeconomic problem of patronage politics, but more importantly, it made county governments the frontline agency of democratic governance, industrialization and job creation. Giving substantial leeway for county governments to address their own unique problems is a leap forward in itself. Even national security can no longer be entirely a national government function. The concept of security has to be understood in terms that are used by new security actors, such as the local communities.
Stronger autonomous devolved governments systems have the following advantages over national government:
One, devolved institutions are more flexible than centralized institutions. They can respond quickly to changing circumstances and constituents’ needs.
Two, devolved institutions are more effective than centralized institutions because they know the local situation better than the national government and they are more capable at communicating to the locals what needs to be done.
Three, devolved institutions are far more innovative than centralized institutions. Knowing the situation, the stakeholders, the opportunities and constraints allow local leaders to determine the best means at accomplishing key tasks.
Four, devolved institutions generate higher morale, more commitment, and greater productivity. The ones involved in local governance are themselves stakeholders and are affected by the way the local government works. The commitment comes from the sense of being one with the community, thus the focus and intent to accomplish more.
Finally, along with the granting of more powers to county governments, the mechanisms for accountability must also be strengthened.
b. More Equitable Distribution of Wealth
The other devolved governance reform agenda calls for more equitable distribution of wealth. This issue involves two specific concerns: one is the need to strengthen county governments’ capacity to generate its own revenue; and two, the popular call to reformulate and determine the internal revenue sharing. Understanding local finance concretizes the concept of local autonomy. The devolved functions have been affected significantly because of inadequate local finance compromising the delivery of public services in most of the county governments.
c. Shifting to a federal system
The nature of the Kenya geography, considerable ethnic and linguistic diversity, including the demands of development administration all call for a more substantial political restructuring. This tells us that there are fundamental issues on governance that could be answered only by structural reforms. Inclusiveness is a fundamental issue especially in decision-making, where national leadership is dominated by a few linguistic groups and thus government programs are seen to benefit only a few. The principle of subsidiarity, within a federalist state is important in order to overcome the problems created by the political and economic structure of centralized nation-states. The federalism subsidiarity principle is basically that all decisions in society shall not be made on a level higher than necessary. Each individual has the right to exercise some degree of influence over all matters which concern him/her, limited necessarily by the rights of other individuals. The power structure of society must be such that the authority to deal with a problem lies where the problem arises or naturally belongs; this often means at-−local levels. Security alone is a key problem because of centralized administration. Restructuring the political system is viewed by many to offer substantial options so that these issues could be addressed locally.
d. Strengthening Local Accountability
Strengthening of local accountability should come along the enhanced power granted to the county governments. Transparency matters in sustainable development, it helps drive growth and development. Accountability measures ensure that the increase in local financing would yield better governance by having check-and balance to allocation and use of resources. A focus on fiscal transparency is fundamental. County and national governments must open up their budgets to scrutiny. Where there is momentum for transparency of government expenditure, it enables citizens to track delivery of services such as health, education, water and sanitation that transform their lives. There is need to improve and strengthen the way public money is managed, focusing on budget and procurement transparency, improved external oversight, and local participation.