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Our priorities misplaced, says Mudavadi

PARIS, France, Mar 24 – Local Government Minister Musalia Mudavadi has said that debate on the date of the 2012 general elections is futile unless efforts are placed on ensuring legislation on devolution is in place.

Speaking in Paris on Wednesday when he met French State Minister for Local Government Philippe Richert, Mudavadi said elections cannot be held without laws on devolved institutions. 

"We are engaged in a futile debate unless we fulfil the demands of the Constitution on two levels of government. We can argue all we can, but the Constitution requires County Governments to be voted for in the next elections. The people voted for devolution and County Governments are what Kenyans are looking forward to in the next election," he said.

The DPM said legislation on devolution needed to be fast-tracked rather than endless debates on non-priorities.

He said Kenya under devolved units will be an exciting time. Devolution, he said, will entrench democracy, accountability and transparency at all levels while ensuring equity in distribution of resources.

"We envisage a situation where people will ask less of the state and be discontented with service delivery because they will be in-charge of their own devolvement through County Governments," he said.

However, he pointed out, politicians were fixed with non-issues at the expense of confidence building that "we indeed mean business in implementing the Constitution."

Mr Richert said French experience with a three-tier decentralised system of 26 regions, 101 counties and 36,000 municipalities had shown that further decentralisation under the county into elective units compromised financial management and efficiency.

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"Though decentralisation encourages democratic accountability at the local level, the risk of decentralizing too much may compromise efficiency through loss of financial resources. People may have to be taxed more and this breeds discontent with the system. You risk less by having larger units that can benefit from economies of scale," Mr Ruchert said.

He cautioned that when there is concurrent jurisdiction or shared function between national and county governments: "It is important to have separate complementary budgets for such functions."

"Ensure functions for both national and county governments are clearly spelt out in detail and that any function transferred must be accompanied by the equal transfer of financial resources to carry it out," he said.

Mr Ruchert said the French system allowed for a commission composed of national and local government representatives to sort out any conflicts.

"But protect yourselves through the primary legislation now. Don\’t wait to review it like we have discovered," he cautioned.

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