Devolution (Implementation and Challenges)


Characteristics of Devolution

  • Two or more levels of government established by law
  • Coordinated yet none is subordinate to the other/ none is an agent of the other.
  • The governments are independent, separate and autonomous/ self-sufficient yet interdependent.
  • Level of government created/protected by the constitution
  • The functions of the governments are also defined by the constitution.
  • Devolution combines self governance with shared governance
  • At the local level self-governance is allowed while at the national level decision-making is shared.
  • It is necessary to have shared institution and infrastructure
  • Institutions and infrastructure are shared because they also serve and render services to both levels of government.

When devolution is not done well/Poor county governance leads to

  • More concentration of power to a small elite as well as increased oppression of the poor
  • Increased human rights violation, corruption and other abuses of public office
  • Tendency for leaders in devolved governments to reduce participation of the common man to a token level.
  • Unaccomplished tasks at the county level as counties might prove too small or too large.
  • Possibility that the weak, fragile and illegitimate state will just re-invent itself at the devolved level
  • Elites gaining more power to manipulate the masses
  • Using the position as an avenue for personal enrichment
  • Using the platform as a dumping ground for political rejects at the national level

The challenges and how the current Laws/Bills attempt to address them.

Devolution entails the transfer of political, administrative and legal authority, power and responsibility from the centralized government unit to some unit at local or regional level. Such a transfer is legal if provided for under the constitution. It is a practice in which the authority to make decisions in certain spheres of public policy is delegated by law to sub-national level. In a devolved system, the units of devolution to which power and authority is devolved or transferred are autonomous from each other, though interdependent functionally.

While devolution is universally desirable and institutionalizes citizen participation in development, planning and management, devolution may have negative implications if implemented in the incorrect manner and with wrong motives. It is worth noting that problems faced in the previous regimes were attributed to the majimbo system of government. This created friction between KADU and KADU.I f a devolution government cannot work, the constitution endorsing this is rendered paralyzed / unenforceable.

While the task force labored to dispense a system that was viable, various errors sufficed. It is generally observed that the Committee of Experts failed to give due regard to matters relating to the sizes of the boundaries which left some counties marginalized. The matter has promoted contention amongst citizens who play an active role in safeguarding their interests. In addition, the task force left a number of the old systems intact such as the local authorities.

The task force conceptualized our devolved government as a unique system of government, neither federal as that of the United States of America nor Unitary. Article 6(2) of the Constitution provides that the national and county levels of governance are distinct and interdependent and shall conduct their mutual relations on the basis of consultation and cooperation.

The government is viewed as developmental. The questions arising are 'what would be the role of the national government towards development?' ' What would be the role of the county government towards the same?' ' If all powers were conferred to the national government, will development be achieved?' ' Will the same be realized if such exclusive powers are granted to the county governments?'

The task force wanted to override the contention 'who will control what?' and in doing this, they steered away from looking at available resources as strictly county or national but communal. Following this, the bills/laws related refer to resources as 'communal' or 'community'. Some of the shared resources include universities and institutions such The Kenya Institute of Administrators.

While the a task force assumed that the two governments are equal and not hierarchical, the national government has residual powers over county government and it also has some oversight powers in county governments. It is imperative to understand that the county government cannot exist in isolation; the state plays a major role. The international community will want to deal with the state and not the county.

The following Bills are crucial for the realization of devolution in our government:

  • The County Government Financial Bill 2011
  • Devolved Government Bill 2011
  • Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations Bill 2011
  • Intergovernmental Relations Bill 2011
  • Transition Bill 2011
  • Urban Areas and Cities Bill 2011

Some questions raised frequently include:

Which body is mandated to draft the bills?

The committee of experts was not established by the old constitution. The task force works independently and so does the Treasury. However the two can work together and consult. The parliament commences with approving such and the Ministry of Justice, through the office of the Chief Justice documents the bills.

Are Kenyans ready for devolution?

The public as well as aspiring governors and other officials ought to be actively engaged in obtaining information pertaining to this matter. The responsibilities that come with devolution should also be taught. It is important for Kenyans to be educated about devolution before implementing it in order to achieve a competent government whose leaders are accountable to their subjects.

Will devolution separate/ cause division among Kenyans?

Devolution is expected to give Kenyans an opportunity to interrogate/question the amount of resources that we have as a nation, who controls them and how they will be distributed. However, with the availability of resources, the various counties will have to interact and co-exist for their sustainability. For example through agriculture, trade etc.


  • Dissemination of information pertaining to devolution should be boosted.
  • The role of CDF in the national and county levels should be clearly spelt out.
  • The funds allocated to each county should correspond to the needs of the counties.
  • Citizens should participate in drafting the bills so that they do not appear handicapped.
  • Kenyans should be careful to elect leaders whose conduct is flawless/corruption free.

In a devolved system, the units of devolution to which power and authority is devolved or transferred are autonomous from each other, though interdependent functionally

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