THE DEVELOPMENTAL COUNTY IN A DEVOLVED KENYA
In the recently released TJRC report, development is mooted as one of the ways by which historical injustices can be dealt with. It has been said again and again that social injustices in Kenya are the biggest mines that are bound to explode sooner than later. Social injustices exist in many forms but most pronounced as economic exploitation. There are those who were traditionally privileged e.g. the clerks and home guards in the colonial administration, who took the reigns of power at independence. The injustices in the form of social marginalization perpetuated by successive governments explain why Kenya remains highly polarized along tribal lines. There is a perception that governments exist to favor their people over and above perceived enemy tribes or communities.
REDISTRIBUTION THROUGH DEVOLUTION
Devolution is billed to bring development closer to the people and enhance community participation in development. Through devolved units, the necessary redistribution of national resources is to happen towards a more equitable Kenya. While everyone is excited about devolution, we necessarily have to get it right if devolution is to serve a positive purpose. If devolution is not taken seriously and carefully, we risk balkanizing Kenya and worse still; pwani si Kenya and Kisumu si Kenya will be our lot. How do we get devolution right?
The formed counties are semi-autonomous government units. This is a fundamental principle that has to be respected if counties are to work. People have to trust the national government to act in good faith towards the counties. People have to trust the central government to have their back just in case the county administrators play rogue games. At the same time, it should be clear that the national government has given the people of each county the necessary space to chart a destiny that they believe in. For this to be achieved, the ministry of Devolved government and National planning should establish intergovernmental mechanisms that ensure people feel the national government while at the same time feeling freed from traditional centralist exploitation. The county government has to in themselves find a workable formula for ensuring they complement national government in its efforts.
WHOSE REALITY COUNTS?
For counties to achieve anything to write home about, each governor need to always have this small question at the back of his mind. Whose reality counts in the county government? This is a basic question that was discussed extensively by Robert Chambers (a development administration expert). We now have county governments but whose reality is going to county? From sentiments on executive committee members appointed by governors, it seems we have only devolved national elitism to the county levels. The county that succeeds in uniquely charting a developmental path is one that will make the reality of the people on the ground to count. Just like the mistake we made at national level i.e. thinking that by getting blue eyed boys from Harvard to head ministries then Kenya will be in safe hands. It does not follow; all that is needed at the county level are professionals who understand local level development dynamics. Those that understand rural development will assure you that it is only when the locals take charge that sustainable development becomes a possibility. Paulo Freire argues that the humanization call that any development worker is called to demands that we do not impose our reality. Rather, as Chambers would explain, we become facilitators towards people realizing their potential and the freedom to use that potential towards development. Therefore, the only county that will act as a facilitative agency rather than another imposing authority will succeed in meeting devolution objectives.
AWARENESS AND PARTICIPATORY DEVELOPMENT
The bible aptly puts it that our people perish due to lack of knowledge or wisdom. The developmental county will be one that appreciates the link between awareness and action. It is a simple psychological fact that emotions are a product of our thoughts while actions are spurred by emotions and guided by reasoning. Let us get our people reasoning about life, prosperity, life, peace, togetherness, education, health etc. The developmental governor should focus on equipping villagers with practical skills and awareness for survival in our world of today. Just imagine, how many diseases can be prevented basically through awareness and community action? Let the counties invest every energy they have in training; let them employ extension officers in the area of agriculture, community health workers and community outreach teams. There are many self help groups in our villages. Let these entities become a driving force through which awareness can be channeled.
RESEARCH, PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT
Many governors are busy coming up with strategic plans. However, we know too well that any plan not based on facts is a mere guess. A concrete plan has to be based on concrete data. We know that there is enough information about our counties however, is the information detailed enough to warranty any strategic decisions. At the disposal of county administrators are the regular health and economic survey done by the Kenya Bureau of statistics and Census data. These sources of data provide general descriptive that do not provide the necessary details for a people driven development at the country level. Governors will have to ensure that facts about each county are established. Such facts should include no of households, household characteristics, actual education levels, level of unemployment, income capacity at household levels, livelihood risks per household, no of cattle, virtually every detail necessary to know that in this county, there is a young man who has 10 birds as only source of livelihood.
Based on such concrete data, the governor should demand that planning begins at the lowest level possible in the county. Let us engage families on their land and know their plans, let us engage villagers in their village and help them develop a 5 year strategic plan, let us engage location stakeholders, let us engage each division and district. To this end, the governors have to encourage formation from cross-sectional teams that will traverse the communities and engage people in setting goals and plans. Once this is done and based on those plans then a county can produce its master plan that will surely respond to people’s developmental needs.
STRUCTURE AND ORGANIZATION
Unless the structure of government is right, red tape, inefficiency and ineffectiveness will be the order of the day at counties. The developmental county will be one that gets its structure right in terms of responsibility, powers, reporting structures and accountability areas. Using tools like cause effect diagrams, value chains analysis, and each governor has to get the county PSC to disaggregate all roles performed by various individuals at the county. Along side the formed county executive offices, the properly linked county structures be formed. Each county is going to inherit a local authority e.g. city council, municipal council or county council. Let the different departments in the councils be structurally aligned tot he county executive offices. Let the county executives do role and process analysis in each of their dockets.
Once the structure has been sorted, clear job descriptions given and individuals help accountable, the performance contracting be adopted at the county level. This means that every slot has to be filled by a relevant professional with proper documentation. Additionally, every process in the county should be properly documented.
The organization of the county should be driven by community needs. Let each role in the county be a value adding role such that each office becomes a value or revenue generating centre rather than merely a cost centre. There should mechanisms for constant review or monitoring and evaluation. This will entrench the culture of continuous improvement in the performance of roles. Let there be incentives such that top performers are recognized and properly rewarded. If these among other measure are put in place then counties will spur economic development rather than being a cost burden on mwananchi.
It should be recognized that rural development in Kenya has been driven to a large extent by non-state actors. Governors have to recognize the role of non-state actors in the development of counties. Such non-state actors include private sector operatives (business people) and civil society organization whether national or international. Among the state actors, there are national actors, county actors, elected actors etc. CDF which is a major devolved fund still remains in the hands of members of parliaments. The CDF committees will have their plans as MPs try to show that they have clout. The developmental county will have to establish mechanisms of making sure all agencies and development actors work together for the good of the people. For instance, the governor should become connection that will enable CDF committee to come together and implement cross cutting mega projects. Rather than wait for the national government, four CDF committees can come together to establish a milk cooling plant that will benefit dairy farmers from across their constituencies in the county. If the different development actors are not properly coordinated, there is likely to be much multiplicity of projects, gerrymandering, unnecessary competition and even attempts at sabotage as actors seek relevance.
Devolution holds promise of transforming this country from a haven of misery for the majority to a country of hopeful individuals who trust in themselves and their capacity to afford a life they have reason to value. It all depends on the governors and their governments. These men (founding governors under the new constitution) have to lay a foundation based on principle and love for mankind. Let the spirit of patriotism and justice guides them in their choices and commitment to getting the right things done in the right way, at the right time always. It should be noted that not everyone has a clear picture or understanding of development fundamentals. Let us desist from elitism, patronage, clientilism and focus on getting right Kenyans who know what fellow Kenyans need and how that connects with the bigger Kenyan dream. Once all the mentioned issues have been taken into account, the counties will have the right focus on agriculture, health, education etc. There is no way you are going to truthfully engage the people and not be able to have the right focus.