Role of County Governments in Kenya Revealed

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The upcoming county governments will continue performing many of the current functions of the local authorities, a document forwarded to the Attorney General by the Transition Authority (TA), shows.

It also emerged that the authority has not given the new devolved governments any significant powers than those held by the abolished local authorities.

TA has proposed a list of functions to be transferred to the county governments immediately after the March 4 General Election.

TA is required by law to identify, at least 30 days before the elections, the functions to be transferred to the county governments.  According to the TA document, the county governments will be in charge of livestock sale yards and slaughterhouses. However, meat inspection will still be done by the central government to uphold standards.

In charge of licensing

The county governments will still be in charge of licensing and control of entertainment activities such as betting services, liquor licensing, video shows as well as sports and cultural activities and facilities.

In transport, the county governments will still oversee construction and maintenance of access roads, street lighting as well as traffic and parking bays in towns.

The Constitution stipulates that phased transfer of power is expected to take not more than three years of the elections of the first county assemblies. In this period, the county governments are expected to have built their capacities to govern effectively and put the necessary structures in place.

TA Chairman Kinuthia Wamwangi says county governments will gradually get more powers and responsibilities as soon as they are able to handle them.

“Although the elected leaders of the county governments might, quite understandably, want most of these powers immediately after the elections, some counties are far behind in terms of infrastructure to handle the enormous responsibilities,” he says.

Auditing infrastructure

He says the authority is yet to complete auditing the infrastructures,  basically the assets and liabilities of the 175 abolished municipal and city councils in the country. The audit will offer a clearer picture of how prepared the county governments are to take up many of the responsibilities granted in the Constitution.

“How soon the counties will be given these powers will depend on how soon they develop capacities. The central government will obviously assist in the transition,” adds Mr Wamwangi.  Other functions TA has proposed to be transferred immediately to the new county governments, include responsibilities for local markets,  local tourism and trade licensing but excluding regulation of professionals.

In addition, county governments will still be in charge of land survey and mapping as well as county public works and drainage in urban centres. They will be in charge of pre-primary education and childcare facilities.  Furthermore, they will be responsible for refuse removal, cemeteries and crematoria services; county health facilities and pharmacies as well as ambulance services.

They will be in charge of control of drugs and pornography as well as fire fighting services and disaster management.

They will be responsible too for the licensing of dogs and for facilities for accommodation, care and burial of animals.

The proposed functions do not touch on financing of county governments, which has set the Commission on Revenue Allocation and the Treasury on a collision course.

Few functions

Last year, the Treasury had provided only Sh6 billion for the counties, claiming few of the functions of the county governments would have been devolved in the last quarter of the current year.  But CRA chairman Micah Cheserem objected the proposal, saying the law is clear on what county governments should get.

The CRA wants all counties to get Sh30 billion as soon as governors and county assembly representatives get elected in on March 4. Mr Cheserem says the amount will be the remaining quota of the 15 per cent of national revenue – being the minimum allocation that is due to all the 47 counties in the current financial year.

Although the Constitution states that counties should receive at least 15 per cent of national revenue, Cabinet raised the allocation to 20.1 per cent. The central government will get 79.5 per cent of the estimated Sh968 billion revenue. Marginalised counties will get an additional 0.5 per cent. - The Standard

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