Devolution is not about power but wealth creation

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BY ALFRED MUTUA

On August 22, 1978, the day our first president Mzee Jomo Kenyatta died, Kenya was one of the most promising countries in the developing world.

We were at par with countries like South Korea and ahead of others such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong. Some of these countries were sending their experts to Kenya on field studies on how development is achieved.

Today, these Tiger economies are inching towards the first world – with some manufacturing aircraft and with low levels of poverty.

Did you know that 50 years after independence, some constituencies in Kenya such as Kitui South, do not have an inch of tarmacked road and that children in some areas have never seen water flowing from a tap?

Kenya has achieved much since independence, but it is clear we are not where we ought to be.

For 50 years, we have experimented on a particular way of doing things and, to all of us; we know we could have done better. This is the reason the authors of our Constitution decided that Kenya needs to embrace a new political and development formula – that of devolution.

Devolution is not about power but about wealth creation, fighting poverty and real acceleration of development at the grassroots.

This last week, I was among the 47 governors who walked out of a conference session in Naivasha. The walk-out was not about seeking power, flags, offices or titles. It was about money to counties for the benefit of our poor people.

Control of money

Devolution without money is a joke. The perception that there is a conspiracy to withhold money and the control of money meant for counties by the national government is what angered all governors. We found out instructions had been given that we were not to be in control of money to counties. Control, would, as it has been for 50 years, remain at the Treasury.

While I was campaigning, I was shocked by the level of poverty of my people of Machakos. Our mothers have no water, our youth are eating miraa and have all but given up hope and our fathers are wondering whether God has forgotten them.

My desperate and poor people want to see me rolling my sleeves and getting down to business and working. This is not the time for talking but for action.

I have done nothing because money to operationalise my activities has not yet arrived. Having worked in central government for nearly nine years, I know how government bureaucracy works: whoever controls the flow and timing of the release of money, controls your activities.

During the meetings in Naivasha, I watched and listened as all governors, from all counties, regardless of political parties, repeat the same points: Counties are independent governments and not departments of the national government and that there should be mutual respect and consultation between the national and county governments.

What angered governors most was to find out that the national government had gone ahead and budgeted for counties, as if counties are departments of the national government. This is exactly what has been happening in Kenya for 50 years.

Governors asked: how can a bureaucrat seated in Nairobi, know more of what the county of Turkana, Nakuru, Kilifi or Makueni really needs more that its constitutionally elected governor? How can they purport to itemise a budget, giving all counties similar line items?

Personally, I don’t care much about flags, salutations or the size of my office. What bothers me is the millions of unemployed young men and women in Kenya who are losing hope. The mothers who die daily giving birth and the abject poverty that seems to be growing.

Every single day money is delayed means I cannot initiate an economic activity that would generate wealth and help my people. A day or two of bureaucratic red tape may not be a long time to an officer in an air-conditioned office in Nairobi but it is a painful lifetime to a dying mother or starving child in my villages.

The poor people of Kenya do not have time to wait. Parliament approved the allocation of funds to counties. The Treasury and the Transition Authority officials knew that elections were to be held on March 4, 2013, and that counties would start operating immediately. What, then, governors’ ask, are they waiting for?

Forty million Kenyans are counting on devolution to work. The governors are pushing for the rights of these Kenyans, majority of whom are poor.

Dr Alfred Mutua is the governor, Machakos County [email protected]

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  • Mariko

    Well stated for the treasury mandarins and the uninformed governors

  • Duncan Muchina

    Creation of wealth in Counties will make Kenya better.

  • what we are witnessing is very disgusting? why the flags and salary first and not what what servers wanjiku?

  • gedimuhando

    wishing my best luck.you have the facts but remember the government in power tends to exhibit nepotistic tendencies.You should have known better when you served time.

  • We hear you Governor. I however do not understand how you and your colleagues expected things to be worked out before you came into office. Wasnt what was done by Treasury part of the transition? I mean, assuming that the money should have been disbursed to the counties, who should have been the one recieving it? The county commissioner’s office? I guess not. Ok, I feel that there are major grievances that the Governors voiced but I think you guys are more concerned with pay-checks, power and image than the practicalities of the day and indeed, Wanjiru, Mumbua or Moraa. I think governors have to be pragmatic as they are also servant-leaders otherwise we shall have only got 47 Mois with absolute powers spread around the country in the name of devolution.

    To all members of County Assemblies, pliz can you smell the coffee? These aint just your ordinary governors; they are Their Excellencies GOVERNORS with a flag and a county standard. These jobs and wealth will only result from the vigilance of your assemblies.

  • Nyakenda

    Well said my governor we the people of Machakos wants to see you and your team working. Governors should not allow county commissioners to control their resources and if they allow them then it shall be the end of devolution. Mr governor once you get the money remember your voters in Muthwani ward, we urgently need our access road between Utawala and Katani graded. At the moment vehicles cannot access the estates along that road as it is a black cotton road that is rendered impassable during rainy season. Mr governor we have a lot of faith in you and your team and the county reps that you will do a good job. God bless

    • Ngoma

      You will be waiting for long my friend Mutua is all talk and no action.

  • Jackin

    Thank God! We still have great minds in the midst of a bunch of spoilt rotten self seeking political puppets that we Kenyans blindly adore! SMH!

  • … then prove it by getting to work … let the others strut around … its those counties that generate wealth that will survive …

  • Ngoma

    Nonsense! You are all seeking glory, flags, numbers plates, diplomatic passports and more trips abroad to sleep around with young women. You being leader of the latter.

  • Wanyoike

    You claim in your article that at Jomo’s death “we were at par with countries like South Korea and ahead of others such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong.” Now that is what we call illusion. And for a man who was Govt Spokesman, and is now Governor of a critical county, a serious concern. It shows that over time, we have come to believe the fairy tale of how relatively advanced we were 40 – 50 yrs ago, before Moi messed it all up. The truth is, at independence black Africans as a group were barely literate. Whole tribes like the Pokot, Turkana and others had virtually nobody who’d gone past class 8. Now compare that to say, Korea: Koreans were printing books by 750AD. They were fighting using cannon by 1350AD. If you were to compare the Korean war, and the Mau Mau rebellion (which occurred over roughly the same period), you will see what nonsense it is to claim that we were at par. The assumption that the wealth, education and technical skill of the European settlers was in any way representative of the black African, or post-independence Kenya is ridiculous. This repeated claim that Kenya was level with East Asian countries by all manner of people, from journalists right up to PM Odinga needs to stop; it is lazy and embarrassing.

  • Francis

    I repeat it here again , your argument is a juvenile as they come. An “educated Kenyan” telling his people that the problem is “getting money/controlling money”. Where does the money come from? You want money from other counties to dish out/control? Where are your blue-prints of wealth creation/poverty reduction? You first agenda is your salaries/flags/servants and bodyguards? It is the educated fools like yourselves and myself who have dragged our nation behind.Educated at taxpayers/family cost instead of offering solutions we complain/demand more from those who sacrificed on our behalf.The reason why the so called Asian Tigers are where they are is because they have fewer Mutuas and more Bill Gates-wealth creators as opposed wealth eaters.I guess there are so many young boys and girls from the great county of Machakos who cannot pay school fees/walk to school bare feet as you make the flag and motorcade your first item.You served the last government to the end and now are telling us about 50yrs ago? What did you and the VP do other than defecting to CORD? Have you no shame? You should have made sure the government heard you as you were its mouth.Until you present a budget to your county assembly and learn how to generate money/wealth for your county you should shut up continue your personal pursuit of power and glory. Governors are not central bank branches where money should be deposited- they are chairmen of their village barazas where people through county reps. will make their voices known and agendas brought forth.Those who think their offices are new ATMs are so out of place and it has shown very clearly.

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