Stregthening County Governance

This short policy brief recommends drastic measures to rationalize and restructure national MDAs to cut costs and remove duplication; strengthen devolved governed system; Support County based economic and private sector investments; and improve quality social/public service delivery in County 


1.     The Constitution of Kenya 2010 will in August this year turn seven (7) years old. Coincidentally, the country will also be holding its second general elections under the new Constitution in the same month.

2.     The Constitution 2010 did not only significantly restructure the governance system and redesigned how the people relate to it but also drastically established a devolved system of governance, which was a relief from the hybrid mongrel of presidential and parliamentary systems.

3.     This Constitutional order offered renewed hope and aspiration to the Kenyan people and to a country ravaged by many years of dictatorship, economic decay, corruption and human rights violations. However, for Kenyans to enjoy a democratic, secure, stable and shared prosperity future; faithful and full implementation of the Constitution and Devolution is mandatory

4.     When Kenyans voted to have a new Constitution in 2010, they expected a devolved system of governance where powers and resources are transferred to autonomous devolved units as ascribed by the Constitution across the country to enable communities to plan their priorities and development at the county level. This would make it easier for communities to hold their leaders to account as a result of their close proximity to the people, plan in accordance with their preferences and needs as well as ensuring previously neglected areas in the country receive resources for development and provision of essential services.

5.     People of Kenya have in the last four years been on worthwhile journey experimenting the  devolved system of the government. The results are proving very positive. It is time to start the process of consolidating the four (4) years of dividends of the devolved system of government.

6.     One major challenge for the devolution process is that the National Government Policy on devolution and the County Government Act were drafted without any comprehensive restructuring of the  national government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) which  remain as intact as they were before devolution.

7.     The national government, while free to infiltrate its policies at the county levels, must do so through the structures recognized under the Constitution and not run parallel or duplicate system. The law is clear that the national government may channel grants, whether conditional or unconditional to the county governments as additional revenue within the meaning of Article 202 and not any other entity which performs the functions allocated to the county by the Constitution. The national government cannot purport to channel grants to an entity whose intended projects effectively undermine the role of the government at the county level.

8.     In the last four years the national government has successfully, through the National Assembly, been pushing legislative and administrative processes that subvert devolved functions. This is evidenced in the Water Act 2016, The National Drought Management Act 2016, the Land Laws (Amendment) Act 2016, the Community Land Act 2016, Roads Reclassification Act among other unconstitutional laws that courts have revoked. The situation is being escalated through the budgetary process now. Further, there are still serious problems on how the two levels of government cooperate and operationalize the execution of shared and or concurrent functions. Costing of the devolved functions has been blocked adversely affecting devolved services delivery by the county governments.  

9.     The Constitution changed the economic, fiscal and taxation policy. The current revenue and taxation policy is fiscally unbalanced as the national government continues to determine fiscal and taxation policy with very limited participation of the county governments. Further Vision 2030 has not been radically reviewed and reformulated NOT tinkered to bring it into conformity with constitutional dispensation. This have had adverse effects on the ability of County governments  to play  significant role in determining economic, fiscal and taxation policy of the country and also help secure their broad financial autonomy sustainability.

10.  County governments must make sure that every function either directly or indirectly implied by the Constitution to be exclusively devolved or shared or concurrent is implemented.  Resources and functions that line ministries, departments and agencies of national government are holding unconstitutionally at national level will have to be surrendered to the county governments.  Duplication of functions that cause unnecessary wastage and conflict will be eliminated through Articles 1, 6, 10, 174, 183, 187 and 189 of the Constitution.

11.  County governments are the new factories and innovations hubs for Kenya. They play pivotal role in propagating local economic development and regulating the private sector in their jurisdictions. In the last four years the country has seen national government adopting and implementing a dangerous debt-propelled economy. Exports, agriculture yields and manufacturing have been declining tremendously. When Kenyans voted for a devolved system of government, they expected power and resources to transform local economic development and ensure efficient and effective service delivery.

12. County governments are gaining in authority, powers and legitimacy and become more prominent in driving local economic development.  Counties are the new factories and innovations hubs for Kenya. They play pivotal role in local economic development and supporting private sector in their jurisdictions. An important precondition for pro-poor economic growth is that county government understands their potential role in supporting private sector development, and is aware of the opportunities and constraints for the private sector in its jurisdiction.

13. County governments contribute in various ways to an enabling environment for pro-poor economic growth. First, county governments should foster effective and efficient registration and licences for business and property activities. Good economic governance means predictable and reliable action by the county government, through the application of accessible, affordable and transparent policies and procedures. This also implies that taxes and levies should be collected and used in a transparent way. Secondly, County governments should focus on economy based on export-led growth, manufacturing and diversification through building transparent and favorable competitiveness environment and property rights regime that support business. Thirdly, strengthen the devolved system of government as driver of transforming the peasantry rural agriculture economy into modern high yield value added export- oriented productivity. This will see strengthening the county-based local private sector, building inter-counties economic cooperation and supporting local small scale manufacturing.          Finally, ensure regulatory institutions that do not perform well their assigned job of providing oversight, and accountability and transparency are strengthened including separating legislative policy from executing function to avoid conflict of interest to ensure efficiency, probity and prudent spending of the public resources

14.  The National government has not been unable and or unwilling to address the security and policing system in context of devolved system of government informed by unique local security challenges and dynamics. Localized policing and law enforcement is the bedrock of successful policing and crime prevention.

Key Actionable policy directions for implementation to strengthen devolved system of governance;

1.     Ensure the allocations to County governments are increased proportionate to the national revenue share. Big budget allocations to national ministries, departments and agencies must significantly be reduced as majority of them have policy and regulatory mandate while Counties hold responsibility of service delivery. Adopt policy of More County, less National. Also review the fiscal, taxation and economic policy to give county governments’ direct and influence voice in conformity with devolution.

2.     Restructure, align, rationalize and downsize the national Ministries, departments and agencies and regional sector wide authorities to accord with and respect the devolved system of government  to remove costly, parallel and duplicating functions and  also release a lot of funds being held unconstitutionally by national MDAs. This also includes massive overhaul of national policies, regulations and laws to bring them into conformity with the Constitution and devolution.

3.     Strengthen institutions that facilitate intergovernmental relations and ensure national institutions support devolution to build better relations between national and county

4.     Streamline and hasten the process of transferring funds, conditional grants and donor funding to the County governments.

5.     Develop capacity and capabilities of institutions, systems, processes and procedures of the County Governments for purposes of sound policy, law and regulation formulation; integrated planning, budgeting and performance management; effective policy execution; and quality service delivery.

6.     Carryout comprehensive audit of the County assets including land and properties through detailed transparent audit and establishing open registry for proper planning and future utility.

7.     Conduct county based human resource assessment to harmonize personnel with needs, skills and reduce bloated unsustainable task-force and wage.

8.     Institute comprehensive land reforms to ensure accessibility of land resources fairly by all citizens, create transparent land and property registry and enforce equitable share of natural resources wealth

9.     Devolve certain policing services to address the security and policing system in context of devolved system of government and be responsible for public safety and security within the County.