Kenya’s general and presidential elections next month, (March) will usher in a brand new administrative system that is likely to have major repercussions not only in the country itself but throughout the East African region. Wanjohi Kabukuru reports from Nairobi.
Next month’s polls are historic not just to Kenya but to the entire region, as a highly ambitious mode of governance will be ushered in on 5th March 2013, the day after the much-anticipated Kenya General Elections. This day will mark a significant administrative change in this eastern African nation. The transformation will not just be limited to the outcome of the presidential results, that will reveal a new president to succeed President Mwai Kibaki, who is retiring. After next month’s General and Presidential Election, Kenya will not only have a new President but a new administrative system. In addition to voting for members of parliament, voters will elect 47 new county governors and a similar number of senators. These new representative positions were stipulated in the new Kenya Constitution (2010), which is being implemented in phases.
After the elections, a critical phase of the new supreme law will come into effect, with the 47 governors and their respective assemblies symbolising Kenya’s devolved government and representing the country’s new administrative units.
Previously, Kenya had eight provinces, whose administration was centralised and managed through presidential appointees by the name of Provincial Commissioners (PCs). A day after the polls, this structure will be phased out and a new gubernatorial structure will come in, signalling a decentralised government.
These changes will be Kenya’s paradigm shift from a post-independence centralised system, which was largely viewed as having amalgamated political power with economic access and opportunities for an elitist few. The devolved system has been structured to redress this arrangement, which had perpetuated an uneven distribution of essential services and resources. “It will usher in transparency and accountability in public finance expenditure and spur development at the county level,” economist and public finance expert Dr David Ndii says. In the last two years, the World Bank has spent immense resources studying this new model and drawing up future projections. It has produced three reports, all dealing with Kenya’s forthcoming transformation. “The turbulence in Kenya’s economy coincides with implementing the constitutional blueprint for a new political and administrative architecture, arguably the most momentous and far-reaching reforms in Kenya’s post-independence history,” says the World Bank’s December 2011 report, Kenya’s Momentous Devolution.
“Kenyans bring to this process a tremendous enthusiasm and energy, but the devil lies in the detail,” the report adds. “The design of fiscal accountability, public service and transition arrangements will determine whether Kenya can weather the economic storm in a way that enhances social equity, service delivery, citizen engagement, and so deliver on Kenyans’ expectations of constitutional transformation.”
In February 2012, the World Bank made a presentation before the Kenya Parliamentary Caucus on Devolved Government. Making Devolution a Game Changer was a 20-page PowerPoint presentation that showcased 10 ways the World Bank had identified as key in making the Kenyan transition work.
The 10 steps that the World Bank suggested included empowerment of the transition authority; according county governments’ power to raise revenue; building strong county assemblies; and adopting a realistic first budget, among others.
In June 2012, the World Bank issued a more comprehensive dossier, Devolution Without Disruption: Pathways to a Successful New Kenya. The 216-page dossier acknowledged that even though it’s a homegrown model, the county system, which involves a massive reorganisation of the government, will pose major challenges for the country.
“Implementing devolution will be a Kenyan-led process. By walking this new road, Kenyans will find their own solutions to the development problems that they face,” World Bank Kenya Country Director Johannes Zutt says. “It’s inevitable that things will not always go according to plan, and that implementation will reveal problems which were not anticipated. The breadth of the transformation makes it imperative to consider clearly what these challenges will involve, and how best to prepare for them.”
Rush to join gubernatorial race
It is easy to understand why Kenyans are excited and hold high hopes for the coming polls, and also why the World Bank would be so concerned about this major change in Kenya. At the heart of the monumental decentralisation is an “equitable distribution” of resources from the national kitty. Leading in this process is the influential constitutional body, the Commission for Revenue Allocation (CRA).
The CRA gets its mandate from the constitution’s Article 203 (2), which states: “For every financial year, the equitable share of the revenue raised nationally that is allocated to county governments shall be not less than 15% of all revenue collected by the national government”.
Already the CRA has come up with a formula to allocate resources to the counties, based on population, poverty levels, county land area, prudential financial management, performance index, and a fund equalisation index to distribute a minimum of 15% of the national revenue, as pointed out by the constitution.
According to the Money Bill for the financial year 2013–2014, some $2.3bn, representing 24.2% (9% more than the minimum), will be shared among the 47 counties. Nairobi will get the lion’s share, securing some $175.3m, followed by Nakuru, with $84.1m, and Kiambu County, which will secure $81.8m. The three counties receiving the least are Taita Taveta, Isiolo and Lamu, which got $26.5m, $21.9m and $18.4m respectively.
This allocation will be an annual exercise, to be reviewed every five years by the Senate, which will be Kenya’s supreme law-making body, serving as the country’s upper house.
Fully aware of the prospects and the immense economic leverage that the constitution has bestowed on the counties, well-known business technocrats have already rolled up their sleeves and are on the campaign trail, seeking votes for the county governors’ seats. Evans Kidero, who resigned as CEO of agribusiness giant Mumias Sugar Company; career investment banker Jimnah Mbaru; Suleiman Shahbal, who set up the first Islamic bank in East Africa, the Gulf African Bank, and has vast interests in the energy sector; former National Bank of Kenya (NBK) boss Reuben Marambii; and Michael Waweru, who recently retired as Commissioner-General of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), are some of the business titans keen to run various counties. Career politicians, academics and civil service bureaucrats have also joined the fray.
According to Daniel Kamande, advisory manager at Ernst & Young, Kenyans will need to weed out the country’s numerous political challenges by embracing the county government through the election of responsible leaders: “Political uncertainties, marginalisation, excessive waste of natural resources, political intolerance, as well as cut-throat political competition has become the order of the day. The devolved government is therefore a new dawn and it is expected that Kenya will elect responsible leaders who are development oriented to govern the devolved counties.”
Key changes that have already been implemented in readiness for the major Kenya government overhaul which comes into effect on 5th March include the setting up of independent constitutional institutions such as the Commission on Implementation of Constitution (CIC), Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), National Land Commission (NLC), Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the National Police Service Commission (NPSC) among others. Alongside these constitutional bodies is the appointment of constitutional office holders such as the Chief Justice, Attorney-General, Director of Public Prosecutions and Inspector-General of police, through a competitive open process.
The constitution that Kenyans voted for in the 2010 referendum will ensure they celebrate their jubilee year under a new leadership structure in March. A full implementation of the new constitution is expected to be in place in five years’ time.