Governors have complained that the role of counties in the implementation of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda remains unclear.
The big four – universal health coverage, food security, affordable housing and manufacturing – are the pillars of the President’s legacy, ahead of the end of his term in 2022.
The ambitious programmes all fall under devolved functions and would therefore need the State to partner with counties.
At the 6th annual Devolution Conference in Kirinyaga County on Tuesday, Council of Governors Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) demanded a proper brief of their roles in the development plan.
“The entire CoG has embraced the Big Four agenda but its implementation is still unclear. What is the policy framework? This noble idea needs more consultation. Counties need to be at the planning level of this agenda” Mr Oparanya said.
The COG chair also questioned some policies and laws, saying they continue to weaken devolution.
“We need a unified framework for the pension plan for counties. We have three bills in parliament regarding pension yet the summit has recommended their withdrawal,” he said.
Governors also raised concerns about the National Treasury’s delays in releasing funds, a circumstance which they noted hampers development.
In his address to the summit, Deputy President William Ruto highlighted counties’ financial problems and asked them to increase their revenue streams to meet the shortfall and end their overreliance on Treasury.
Mr Oparanya, however, said Treasury took too long to disburse the funds, making it difficult for them to ensure the kind of growth that Kenyans would benefit from.
”Development projects have stagnated so it is becoming difficult to serve the people,” he said, describing the situation as the sabotage and paralysis of devolved units.
The chairman told Treasury to ensure money is released on time so county work goes on smoothly.
Mr Oparanya assured President Kenyatta of support in the war on graft, saying, ”Counties will only prosper when resources are used for intended purposes”.
“We shall ensure funds allocated for various projects are not misused,” he pledged.
In his speech, the President said investigative agencies should be given room to do their work in the war on corruption, which he noted robs the public of resources it is in dire need of.
While opening the summit, he also noted that the war targets neither individuals not communities.
Governors Martin Wambora (Embu), Kiraitu Murungi (Meru) and Mohamud Ali (Marsabit) called for more money for health, in order for universal health coverage to be realised.
They said devolved units were determined to ensure Kenyans get the best quality treatment in hospitals and dispensaries hence the need for more money.
”For us to establish good infrastructure in hospitals and procure good medical equipment for screening cancer and other diseases, the national government should increase funding to counties. We also need to procure drugs for the high number of patients,” said Mr Murungi.
While noting that county health needs were many, Mr Ali said, ”We only get 20 percent of the money while 80 percent remains at the national level. The system of funding counties should be reviewed,”
Concerning nurses, Mr Wambora said they were addressing their demands to prevents strikes that leave patients desperate and spending more at private facilities.
Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa termed corruption and ballooning wage bills as the main challenges.
He said the lion’s share of cash released to counties is used to pay salaries.
”When more money is spent on paying salaries, little development takes place. This does not help Kenyans at all,” he said, adding graft was rife so Kenyans should unite against it.
He noted, however, that there were successes in devolution and said those trying to ‘kill’ it should be arrested and prosecuted.
Reports by George Munene, Kennedy Kimanthi, Grace Gitau and Nicholas Komu
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