Underfunding should not excuse counties from performing

At least 6,000 delegates and all governors in Kenya converge in Nakuru this week to take stock of devolution, four years after it was effected.

It is a unique opportunity that would see virtually every leader from both public and private sector engage each in extensive deliberations that seek to concretise the delegation of power and resources to counties from the central government.

While the spirit behind devolution in the country has been lauded globally, the challenges that come with it have been innumerable.

Besides inadequate supply of human resources, a bit of bad blood and suspicion between counties and national governments, the critical issue that continues to slug devolution is the insufficient revenue allocation. By law, the devolved units are entitled to at least 15 per cent of the total national revenue collected. With the huge load being carried by the counties, ranging from roads, agriculture to health, the allocation has proved inadequate.

But even with the limited resources, the County Government of Bungoma has managed to perform quite well in almost all fronts, thanks to the austerity measures adopted recently where my administration managed to save close to Sh300 million.

Four years ago when I assumed office, I formulated a must-achieve plan in my first five years of leadership. They included social, political and development economic pillars that were laid out in my manifesto.

Through the blueprint, we have so far renovated 24 rural health facilities, benefiting more than one million people in the area. We have also equipped 22 health facilities with assorted modern facilities, renovated the Bungoma County Referral Hospital, modernised operational theatres at the Webuye and Bungoma Hospitals besides constructing and launching the renal unit at the Bungoma County Referral Hospital. So as to boost the morale of the medical team, the county government has also recruited more than 490 new staff in various cadres, 153 of which have been promoted.

The operationalisation of the renal unit is of crucial importance to the people of Bungoma. In the past, an average of 20 patients a day would be referred to medical facilities as far as Eldoret and Nairobi for dialysis, which they would typically attend twice a week. An average cost per dialysis session is between Sh5,000 and Sh8,000. This was quite expensive to many people. But with the operationalisation of the renal unit in Bungoma, this saves the county of these huge medical and travel costs. Indeed, it is my desire to make Bungoma County Referral Hospital a medical facility of choice in the region by 2018.

The transformations in the health sector have been running in tandem, especially with the modernisation of our infrastructure. My government has so far invested close to Sh300 million in various community water projects in Bungoma.

To date, more than 300,000 people have benefitted from these projects in all sub-counties. By the end of this financial year, the number of beneficiaries would have more than doubled. My grand drive is to ensure that Bungoma people have access to clean portable water within a radius of 100 metres.

Having appreciated the fact that good roads are a principal ingredient of the growth of businesses, we have so far put more than Sh1 billion in bettering our roads. By June this year, my government would have tarmacked more than 100 kilometres of roads, put murram to at least 500 kilometres of roads as well as graded 184 kilometres. Currently, work is in progress on the Misikhu-Brigadier, Kapsokwony-Namwela, Chwele-Lwakhakha roads, among others. This will in no doubt stir Bungoma’s investment landscape.

As the conference kicks off, Bungoma County farmers would also be receiving free fertilisers from the county government. This ambitious project, which started in 2013 with 200 farmers a ward, graduated to 400 in 2016, is currently serving over 700 farmers per ward. If resources allow, we would be hitting 1,000 farmers per ward, translating to 45,000 farmers in Bungoma by next year.

While these milestones may be commendable, it is not sufficient to a highly populated county like Bungoma. More funds are needed to match what the county government offers with the number of people.

This calls for counties, not only Bungoma, to think beyond the traditional sources of revenue to widen its incomes. Importantly, counties have to tame unnecessary spending, and instead, prioritise basics like health. Finally, the Council of Governors and the National Government need to be constantly in consultations to bridge any financial gap that may arise.

(The writer is the Governor for Bungoma. Twitter: @GovLusaka)

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