The adoption of a new Constitution in 2010 followed by the general elections held on 4 March 2013 heralded a new era in terms of the politics and governance of Kenya. Amongst other gains, the Constitution established a two-level governance structure, comprising a national government and 47 county governments, laying the foundations for transfer of political, administrative and fiscal powers from a centralized government to counties. The devolved governance system under the Constitution aims to further the cause of democratic governance from the national to local levels and thereby improving local governance and service delivery through responsive institutions.
The Government of Kenya has started to put in place the policy, legal and institutional framework for the implementation of devolution. The Government launched the Second Medium Term Plan 2013-2017 (MTP II) entitled ‘Transforming Kenya: Pathway to devolution, socioeconomic development, equity and national unity’, which clearly and unequivocally states the commitment of the Government to the full implementation of the Constitution; ensures the rapid set up of counties without the disruption of public service delivery. At the same time, the Government will give priority to capacity development and alignment at both a national- and county-level, as reflected in the National Capacity Building Framework. It is envisaged that county governments will play a key role in the planning and implementation of projects and programmes, through County Integrated Development Plans (CIDPs), leading to the realization of the MTP II and the Kenya Vision 2030.
Significant capacity challenges exist at county levels given that establishing county governments is a completely new venture to all, and therefore the learning curve is very steep. There are the immediate challenges of initiating systems, and the rapid training and adjustment of both the county assemblies and executives. Whilst individual and organizational capacities and experience in managing government in general exist, the critical challenge is to make “devolved counties work” in line with the principles and provisions of the Constitution.
Devolution involves the transfer of power and resources from the central government to lower levels of government, initially to counties, and then more significantly to sub-counties and the people. Kenya’s devolution is a combination of autonomy and interdependence, resulting in a cooperative system of devolved government. Such a devolved system is ambitious and complex and requires careful navigation, consultation and cooperation.
The UNDP Integrated Support Programme to the Devolution Process in Kenya aims at providing technical support on the policy, legal and institutional programme in the implementation of devolution. The Programme has earmarked key support to selected counties on specific areas aligned to the broad objectives of providing capacity building and technical support.
These objectives are realized through the five pillars outlined in the programme document:
i) policies, laws, and institutional reforms for effective implementation of the Constitution at national and county levels adopted;
ii) strengthened institutional and human capacities at national and county level evident in supporting national and local development;
iii) improves service delivery mechanisms;
iv) response to opportunities to ensure effective and equitable service delivery, transparent and accountable use of resources;
v) an integrated service delivery framework pilot implemented.
UNDP is the lead UN agency on this programme, working closely with other UN agencies including UN Women, which is coordinating a gender statistics and gender mainstreaming component. The integrated programme is implemented by strategic partner the Ministry of Devolution and ASALs (formerly the Ministry of Devolution and Planning), as well as national and county-level entities including: the Council of Governors (CoG), County Assemblies Forum (CAF), the Transition Authority (TA), Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA), Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council (IBEC), and the Kenya School of Government (KSG).