By Kabukuru, Wanjohi
African Business , No. 394
NEXT MONTH'S POLLS ARE historic not just to Kenya but to the entire region, as a highly ambitious mode of governance will be ushered in on 5th March 2013, the day after the much-anticipated Kenya General Elections. This day will mark a significant administrative change in this eastern African nation. The transformation will not just be limited to the outcome of the presidential results, that will reveal a new president to succeed President Mwai Kibaki, who is retiring. After next month's General and Presidential Election, Kenya will not only have a new President but a new administrative system. In addition to voting for members of parliament, voters will elect 47 new county governors and a similar number of senators. These new representative positions were stipulated in the new Kenya Constitution (2010), which is being implemented in phases.
After the elections, a critical phase of the new supreme law will come into effect, with the 47 governors and their respective assemblies symbolising Kenya's devolved government and representing the country's new administrative units.
Previously, Kenya had eight provinces, whose administration was centralised and managed through presidential appointees by the name of Provincial Commissioners (PCs). A day after the polls, this structure will be phased out and a new gubernatorial structure will come in, signalling a decentralised government.
These changes will be Kenya's paradigm shift from a post-in-dependence centralised system, which was largely viewed as having amalgamated political power with economic access and opportunities for an elitist few. The devolved system has been structured to redress this arrangement, which had perpetuated an uneven distribution of essential services and resources. "It will usher in transparency and accountability in public finance expenditure and spur development at the county level," economist and public finance expert Dr David Ndii says. In the last two years, the World Bank has spent immense resources studying this new model and drawing up future projections. It has produced three reports, all dealing with Kenya's forthcoming transformation. "The turbulence in Kenya's economy coincides with implementing the constitutional blueprint for a new political and administrative architecture, arguably the most momentous and far-reaching reforms in Kenya's post-independence history," says the World Bank's December 2011 report, Kenya's Momentous Devolution.
"Kenyans bring to this process a tremendous enthusiasm and energy, but the devil lies in the detail," the report adds. "The design of fiscal accountability, public service and transition arrangements will determine whether Kenya can weather the economic storm in a way that enhances social equity, service delivery, citizen engagement, and so deliver on Kenyans' expectations of constitutional transformation."
In February 2012, the World Bank made a presentation before the Kenya Parliamentary Caucus on Devolved Government. Making Devolution a Game Changer was a 20-page PowerPoint presentation that showcased 10 ways the World Bank had identified as key in making the Kenyan transition work.
The 10 steps that the World Bank suggested included empowerment of the transition authority; according county governments' power to raise revenue; building strong county assemblies; and adopting a realistic first budget, among others.
In June 2012, the World Bank issued a more comprehensive dossier, Devolution Without Disruption: Pathways to a Successful New Kenya. The 216-page dossier acknowledged that even though it's a homegrown model, the county system, which involves a massive reorganisation of the government, will pose major challenges for the country.
"Implementing devolution will be a Kenyan-led process. By walking this new road, Kenyans will find their own solutions to the development problems that they face," World Bank Kenya Country Director Johannes Zutt says. …