, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 14 – Since coming to power in 2002, President Kibaki has gazetted the creation of 124 new districts and there are rumours of a possible 15 more being created. Experts speculate the objective is to pre-empt the intended constitutional boundaries review. The ad hoc creation of new districts is a continuation of the government’s political manipulation of local development which in turn undermines the impact of the extensive resources channelled to through the districts and decentralised structures.
The failure to create an effective regulatory decentralised policy is one of Kibaki’s and now Raila’s many failures. The continued absence of a strong, regulatory and harmonising decentralised policy was exploited by Parliament when it created the CDF whose weak regulatory and undemocratic framework essentially creates an MP’s slush fund abused with impunity by less scrupulous MPs and their political cronies. We remember President Kibaki directing the creation of the youth and women’s funds in the advent of the 2005 referendum a ploy to win much needed votes. The respective implementing structures were hurriedly cobbled together afterwards.
The President’s frenzy over the creation of districts confounds even his most ardent supporters. Kibaki is on record as having launched court proceedings against the then President Moi, accusing him of creating 24 districts in 24 years arguing that Moi was creating structures that could not be supported-or would double the taxation burden of the citizen. Kibaki inherited 70 districts and has created over 120 in just 6 years without due regard to the burgeoning, indefensible burden to taxpayers.
A recent paper by Dorah Nesoba reported that whereas the number of districts in Kenya remained almost stable at 42 before 1992, they increased from 42 to 70 in the 10 years after the 1992 reintroduction of multiparty democracy. When President Mwai Kibaki came to power on December 30, 2002, there were only 85 Districts, 15 of which had been created but not legally instituted.
In the 2005 build up to the referendum, the Government gazetted 47 new districts and legalised the pending 15. This year alone an additional 24 have been created. At present the taxpayer and development partners are supporting 151 districts and a further 49 shall be added to that list in the next financial year (2009/2010) bringing the total to 190 districts!
It’s time to panic
Each additional district is likely to cost the tax payers just under one billion shillings and comes at a time when the country is running a budget deficit of over 90 billion shillings and up to 5 million Kenyans facing starvation in the wake of spiraling price inflation and the post-election chaos of last year. An additional 24 billion to the already bust government coffers is cause for panic given that the government is unable to meet routine commitments such as the provision of funds for the secondary school bursary program, and hospital operations are grinding to a halt due to the cash crunch.
Politics stifling development
The decentralisation sector of Kenya is badly in need of a harmonised policy to regulate among other things the creation of new funds, institutions, to rationalise the roles and functions of various institutions, strengthen accountability and entrench citizen participation. A strong decentralised framework will check the appropriative tendencies of various arms of government which is why they prefer to allow a jumbled state of affairs. Despite the creation of at least 8 new local development initiatives since 1998 Wanjiku continues to be held captive in her poverty subject to the political whims of this voracious elite.
Ultimately the drama playing out is simply a continuation of the power play that has dogged Kenya’s local development since independence. Local authorities too have systematically been emasculated by so called executive control. The fear of the office of the president to cede any sort of authority at the local level has resulted in the impotent costly provincial administration structure in urgent need of review. The role of the DDC continues to be murky with it serving as a quasi development unit, stifled under the stranglehold of OP. Even when politicians created a so called local development fund, they ensured that they retained executive control for fear of allowing people real power in their own development.
There is an urgent need to completely divorce politics from development, strengthen the autonomy of local authorities, remove the MP from implementation of CDF, and strengthen the authority of the ministry of planning. We are in urgent need of professional ministers hired for their competence and accountable for their performance. MP’s also need to be accountable for the passage of good laws that uphold the best interests of the country.
On the issue of the creation of spurious districts this government needs to be indicted for the blatant misuse of taxpayer’s resources, incompetent financial management and driving the country into deeper poverty and to the brink of economic and social collapse. To echo the recent call made by the NCCK, the coalition has not only failed but is guilty of perpetrating crimes against the dignity and well being of its citizens. It needs to go.
(This article was authored by Wanjiru Gikonyo CDF Accountability Project)