Devolution remains one of the major benefits that Kenyans gained from the promulgation of the current Constitution.
Apart from the 47 county governments that paved the way for dispersal of power from the hitherto centralised government in Nairobi, communities got the opportunity of participating directly in decisions on their respective local development priorities.
Transfer of finances — more than Sh1 trillion alone between 2013 and 2017 — to the devolved units has had a significant developmental impact in all counties.
The governors elected in the 2013 General Election faced serious challenges as the pioneers of laying the foundation and putting the new governance system in place for the two levels of government.
The Jubilee government, under President Uhuru Kenyatta, deserves special commendation for respecting the Constitution, more so Articles 6(2) and Chapter 11 on county governments.
The Jubilee administration worked well in ensuring a conducive environment for devolution to be realised.
The teething problems of shifting from 175 local authorities to 47 county governments were borne by the first governors and their administrations.
Real gains can be witnessed in health, revenue collection, water, early child education, roads, youth empowerment and trade, among other areas, with varying levels of success across counties.
Devolution structures of the Council of Governors and the Summit were established and made fully functional to support devolved governments and the devolved functions.
The 2017 General Election has brought in 25 new governors while 22 were re-elected.
Voters cited various reasons for their decision to vote out or retain their governors.
Some talked of non-delivery of services, inaccessibility of governors, as well as arrogance and insensitivity from some governors and their staff.
Yet others decried abuse of office, corruption, nepotism, clannism, lack of leadership and misappropriation of allocated resources.
The litany of complaints is in the thousands.
These are the pitfalls to be avoided by the current crop of governors in their leadership.
A change of guard and charge in counties as governors assume office has had the different results of jubilation and remorse.
Counties have seen the new governors read the riot act against laziness, corruption and sabotage from staff.
Kakamega, Uasin Gishu and Busia counties have led in advertising county executive jobs.
Public Service Commission chairperson Margaret Kobia has cautioned governors against arbitrary sackings.
Legal provisions in the amended 2017 County Government Act and procedure demand new recruitment and appointments of chief officers and county executive Committee members respect the law.
Employment agreements and contracts signed by county staff with outgoing governments require not only scrutiny but also legal procedures for review and termination, if any.
This way, incoming county governments will avoid litigation for unlawful dismissal and the attendant payments and/or compensation for damages the staff being shown the door may demand.
Finally, there is a need to give effect to the provisions of Article 184 of the Constitution and the 2011 Urban Areas and Cities Act on establishing city, municipal and town management boards and committees.
It is time county governments moved to the next level in providing services through robust public participation devoid of stage-managed shenanigans as seen in the previous term.
Wanjiku needs to have a say in counties’ priorities and budgetary allocations.
County governments have the task of enhancing accountability, especially on expenditure by the office of the governor.
For instance, where does your governor live?
A private residence or an official residence put up using public funds? What of your county assembly Speaker?
Devolution is a common thread running throughout our Constitution.
Kenyans need to progressively create space and allow it to move into fruition. Only then will we realise its real dividends.
The writer is a devolution and governance expert. [email protected]