NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Kenyans are currently taking stock of the
devolved system of government, five years since the counties
came into place.
It is a mixed bag of fortunes for the
form of government that took political and economic power to the
Opinion is divided on the successes and misses of the
counties headed by governors as the country holds its fifth
devolution conference that started Monday and ends at the
While some Kenyans believe devolution is the best thing to
have ever happened to the East African nation, others note the
system is gobbling up funds with little to show for it.
Kenyans isolate improved health systems, job creation,
boosting of business and bettering of roads and education as the
successes of devolution.
On the other hand, failures include increased corruption and
misuse of funds, rise in fight for resources and entrenchment of
tribalism at the grassroots.
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday in his address to
governors at the devolution forum in western Kenya lauded the
counties, noting some have made good progress.
"Makueni has made good progress in rolling out its version of
subsidized healthcare provision, and in fruit processing too; in
Mandera, child mortality has halved due to the county’s
investment in medical facilities; and Kapenguria now has its
first Medical Training College," he said.
However, he asked the county bosses to stop misuse of
resources even as he steps up 500 million U.S. dollars in
funding to upgrade towns in counties.
More than 10 billion dollars have been transferred to the
counties since 2013 to bring essential government services
closer to the people, said the president.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga on Wednesday similarly lauded
development at the counties, but lamented corruption perpetrated
"Members of County Assemblies, Speakers and other officials
in the executive are being accused of conflict of interest.
"They are the contractors and at the same time purporting to
be conducting oversight roles," he said.
Ordinary Kenyans in Nairobi picked cue from their leaders as
they shared their views on devolution.
"I am happy with devolution because there is better
"I come from Makueni county where the governor started a
health insurance scheme that has seen people spend little on
treatment," Oscar Mutinda, a banker in Nairobi, said on
He noted that selected governors have upgraded road network
in their regions opening up rural areas to business.
"I stayed for three years without a job but was lucky to be
employed by the county as soon as they came into place as an
early childhood education teacher.
"For that I am grateful for the counties," said Henrietta
Nelima, a resident of Kakamega.
Critics of devolution, however, noted that a lot of money is
wasted in counties, with the devolved units having become the
new conduits of corruption.
"I come from Kirinyaga and I can say there are county
officials who have become extremely rich in a few years. Some of
them have corruption cases in courts," said John Nyaga, a
journalist working in Nairobi, noting it is the same case for
A recent report by the National Taxpayers Association, a
lobby group, noted that at least 16 percent of funds allocated
to counties for development projects are wasted.
The Auditor-General reports have shown similar wastage for
the last four years.
Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer in Nairobi, observed
that the country would have made great progress if governors
stuck to the ideals of the system.
"Some governors have performed extremely well by building
referrals hospitals and tarmacking roads in some areas for the
first time but they are countable; a majority are still groping
in the dark," he said.
Wandera noted that most counties are saddled with heavy wage
bills that have made it difficult for the units to engage in
"Corruption and nepotism is also rampant in counties but
these are teething problems that were expected.
"The good thing is that they can be eliminated," he said.