Kenyans Should Influence Policy To Effectively Align Development Models To Poverty Alleviation

Kenyans Should Influence Policy To Effectively Align Development Models To Poverty Alleviation

OPINION ARTICLE
BY ELIUD OWALO

Article 174 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 spells out the objectives of devolution of government, most of which revolve around facilitating equitable economic development across all regions of the Republic. Indeed the section appropriately provides for ensuring that citizens are involved in development processes and programmes. For example, 174 (d) provides for “recognizing the right of communities to manage their own affairs and to further their development”; while 174 (e) espouses “protecting and promoting the interests and rights of minorities and marginalized communities; and 174 (f) advocates for “promoting social and economic development and the provision of proximate, easily accessible services throughout Kenya”.

In sum, the provisions of Article 174 acknowledge the criticality of involving all citizens in national planning and development, so that all persons – irrespective of their social status, region of habitation, population size of their community or any other unique characteristic of a specific group – are included in the development continuum.

Why do I consider this perspective critical? First, the global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, upon which the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are anchored, is bed-rocked on various principles, one of them being “inclusivity” and which has been given a rather instructive tag “leaving no one behind”. I contend here that the tag is really self-explanatory. That the development foreseen in the SDGs, and particularly SDG number 1 which deals with poverty eradication should broadly focus on uplifting each and every citizen – so that income and poverty gaps are minimized. From the global spectrum, it is about reducing poverty within and among countries. However, herein lies the big development question – how do we actualise this given the ever-evolving world geo-politics, which to a large extent explain the perennially lukewarm support given to Least Developed Countries (LDCs), particularly those who have been in conflict situations for long periods with devastating effects on living standards and human rights.

Unfortunately, that development conundrum is not only complex at global level, but is equally challenging to individual countries. In Kenya, and in light of the Constitutional obligations highlighted above, both the National and County Governments have critical roles to play. And this needs to be seen in different contexts. First, the gap between the rich and the poor has been wide and needs to be addressed through short, medium and long-term interventions. Second, there are significant differences in socio-economic development levels of the forty seven counties of the Republic. Third, and rarely considered in development planning, is that there are significant differences in development in the localities or wards that form our counties. Fourth, are the inequalities in incomes and opportunities that exist between men and women. Fifth, are the inequalities of incomes and life support opportunities across various age clusters such as the youth, middle-aged and elderly populations. And the list of factors that cause some people to be left behind in development can go on and on.

According to the latest Kenyan National Demographic and Health Survey, nationally, about 45.2 percent of the population live below the poverty line, surviving on less than Ksh. 1,562 and Ksh. 2,913 per adult equivalent per month for rural and urban households respectively. The incidence of poverty is higher in the northern and coastal parts of the country but significantly lower in others.At county level, there are also significant inequalities in poverty. For instance, the proportion of individuals living  below the poverty line in Turkana (87.5 percent), Mandera (85.8 percent) and Wajir (84.2 percent) is four times that of Nairobi, which has the lowest poverty level at 21.8 percent, and almost double that of Laikipia (47.9 percent), the median county.

With regard to inequality as measured by Gini coefficient, the aforementioned Survey indicated that national ratio was around 0.445, reflecting a high level of inequality. The lower the Gini coefficient the better in terms of equality, so that a Gini coefficient of zero means best equitable situation and 1 highly inequitable. One of the contributing factors to Kenya’s high inequality is the income gaps between rural and urban areas. Why? – because the rural areas have perennially been left behind by policies and development blueprints that have continuously favoured urban areas. For example, household expenditure in Kenya averages about Ksh 3,440 per adult equivalent per month, but is Ksh. 2,270 in rural areas and Ksh. 6,010 in urban areas.

A peep at inequality within counties themselves demonstrates that the challenge of some people being left behind trickles down to the grassroot communities and villages. For example, Tana River, Kwale and Kilifi Counties have the highest income inequalities with Gini coefficients of 0.617, 0.597 and 0.565 respectively. Comparatively, the counties with lowest income inequality include Turkana, Narok, and West Pokot with Gini coefficients of 0.283, 0.315, and 0.318, respectively. Interestingly, this data shows that high poverty is not equivalent to high inequality, as the most equal counties, such as Turkana, are also among the poorest. The implication is that the people left behind in the very poor counties must be living in extremely dire situations.

Within the provisions of the Constitution, we have seen efforts by the National and County Governments to involve key stakeholders in policy making and budgeting processes. This is a welcome move, but the scope and effectiveness of such involvement is still not comprehensive. For example, the public hearings for the budget which are organised by the National Government take about four days and are mainly attended by organised non-state actors, who have some formal mechanisms of analysing the budget. However, the extent to which views of ordinary citizens from the expanse corners of the Republic remains restricted. Equally, we have seen County Governments organise public meetings at Ward level to gather inputs for their respective budgets. Again, there is the question of how many County residents are reached. Furthermore, what is the ability of Wanjiku in terms of understanding complex technical issues of budget making – yet all she wants is to have her local project incorporated in the budget?.

In common mwananchi parlance, inclusion of Wanjiku’s project in the budget is what would actualize the UN’s rosy principle of “leaving no one behind”. It is commendable that there are attempts towards the inclusivity path. However, the realization of the Agenda 2030 and the SDGs calls for greater strategic actions by both the National and County Governments. And this can only be realized if the respective Governments effectively engage key stakeholders working at the grassroots so that the views of all citizens, particularly the marginalized ones are taken on board in policy making, planning, budgeting and execution of development programs. In this regard, and taking into consideration that the voice of individual citizens need to be organized, the non-state actors (NSAs) operating in the country need to up their game to fill-in the gap. They should enhance their capacities to enable them comprehensively and effectively engage stakeholders right from the national level to the grassroots communities.

In conclusion, we need a paradigm shift in our theory of change from needs-based interventions to a more policy influencing (advocacy) approach in order to hold those in authority to account. But above all, Kenyans must be prepared to exploit the opportunities provided by the Constitution and the Agenda 2030, hence claim the right of not being left behind by the National and County Governments. Indeed, as the Constitution stipulates, participation as a national value and principle of governance is binding to all of us.

The Writer is a Management Consultant.

The Gusto In The Education Sector Reforms Must Be Sustained

The Gusto In The Education Sector Reforms Must Be Sustained

OPINION ARTICLE
BY ELIUD OWALO

Globally, there are today about 264 million children and youth not going to school. This is according to the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One can imagine what amount of human resource is wasted if these children and youth fail to access education. We can also imagine the amount of resources and concerted efforts required to address this gap. According to the 2017 Economic Survey, Kenya’s net enrollment rate (NER) for primary schools was at 88.1% in 2012 and 2013, and improving to 88.2%, 88.4% and 89.2% in 2014, 2015 and 2016 respectively. Looking at primary-secondary transition rate, the country recorded 64.5%, 74.7%, 76.1%, 81.9% and 81.3% in the same period. Though our ratios can be said to be relatively high, we are part of the 264 million global statistics.

The implication is that like many other countries, we have to progressively put into place measures to address the many challenges facing our education sector. As a fact, education is a critical ingredient of national development as it is a key determinant of the quality and capacity of human resources necessary to drive a country’s development. In spite of this central role, countries across the world continue to face a myriad of challenges in their respective education sectors. In this regard, education remains a perennially important agenda which has attracted a lot of global attention and support over the years.

Tracing back to the “World Conference on Education for All” held in Jomtien, Thailand in March 1990, the meeting was historical as the “World Declaration on Education for All” adopted in the conference re-affirmed the notion of education as a fundamental human right in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, which declared that “everyone has a right to education”.

At the beginning of this millennium, the global efforts towards education for all were further bolstered by the commitments made within the framework of goal number 2 of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on achieving universal primary education. The MDGs came in at time when our statistics had deteriorated through the years. For instance, the NER had reduced from 98% in 1978 to 75% by 1999 and about 70.7% in 2001.

We must therefore give credit to the positive efforts through which free primary education (FPE) was conceptualized and subsequently operationalized in January 2003. One of the key and most impactful results of the introduction of the FPE was an increase in enrollment from 5.9 million children in 2002 to 7.4 million in 2004, a dramatic increase by 1.5 million.

Since 2003, the country has witnessed various reforms in the education sector. However, the reforms have had their good and bad moments – thanks to our poor record of sustaining reforms. Thanks to the appointment of Fred Matiang’i as the Cabinet Secretary for Education in 2015, reforms in the sector were reinvigorated. Classic examples of some of the reforms he initiated and steered are: an overhaul of the curriculum, with the aim of addressing mismatches between the curriculum and the needs of the market; and radical improvement in the conduct of national examinations, a feat that was not easy after long periods of infiltration by exam leakage cartels.

Of course, the reforms have not come in cheap. The gross total expenditure of the education sector has risen from about Ksh. 260.1 billion in 2012/13 financial year to Ksh. 374.9 billion in 2017/18, an increment of 44 percent. To understand the kind of resources going into the sector, the 2017/18 allocation of Ksh. 374.9 billion represents 23% of the total national budget. The ratio is expected to increase to 25.4% and 25.2% in 2018/19 and 2019/20 financial years respectively. Comparatively, in 2017/18, the health sector was allocated 3.8% of the total budget and is expected to rise to 4.1% in both 2018/19 and 2019/20. Again, Energy, Infrastructure and ICT sectors combined took 25.5% percent of the budget in 2017/18, with a projected reduction to 24.1% and 23.8% respectively in 2019/20.

In sum, singularly, the education sector is taking a quarter of the national budgetary resources. Yet, the sector needs are even greater, what with the frequent strikes by teachers and university lecturers in agitation for higher salary perks. This notwithstanding, I opine that that the rationale for whatever amount of investment in the sector should be seen in the context of the past challenges coupled with the attendant strategic issues and the returns expected from the ongoing reforms; including but not limited to how the sector will meet the country’s current, medium and long-term human resource needs.

Certainly, the country’s development aspirations necessitate progressive improvement of our human resource capacity. Indeed, realizing the economic transformation envisioned in our development blue-prints requires that we improve the quality and relevance of the skills of our workforce, and in particular the youth, upon whom the country will depend on in the medium and long-term.

As such, the education sector must effectively deploy strategies that will align with the SDG number 4 that seeks to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all. Here, the thematic target areas are wide ranging from childhood education to technical, vocational, tertiary and adult education; and equity issues and facilities just to mention but a few. What this portends is that we must brace ourselves for and keep awake to a prolonged season of continued education reforms in Kenya.

There are many priorities to focus on, but in my opinion, key areas of attention should include: improvement of infrastructure in learning institutions to address existing gaps and ease of strain of the existing facilities; deepening curriculum and examination assessment reforms at all levels;  enhancement of grants to improve access to education particularly for the poor; integration of ICT at all levels; promotion of science, technology and innovation; provision of teaching and learning material, especially for the newly rolled-out curriculum; improving and expanding the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges with a clear focus on equipping the youth with relevant skills required to transform our labourforce; addressing equity issues; and improving governance to minimize misappropriation of funds in the sector institutions.

Kenyans are already enjoying some fruits from the reforms initiated since early 2000, and carry even greater expectations that coherent reforms will be sustained in all levels of education. This way, we can improve our NER, realize effective progression of learners from one level to another and churn out an appropriately skilled labourforce that can drive the ever elusive industrial transformation in this country. Furthermore, recognizing that education underpins all the 17 SDGs, the work of the Ministry of Education needs to be anchored on innovative and integrated planning. The positive thing is that there is some fair level of goodwill among Kenyans and other local and international stakeholders. Moreover, although the education largely remains the responsibility of the National Government, opportunities for collaboration with County Governments should be exploited towards a more effective and efficient education sector. Over to you Amb. Amina Mohamed.

The Writer is a Management Consultant

What We Must Do As A Country To Realize Vision 2030

What We Must Do As A Country To Realize Vision 2030

OPINION ARTICLES

BY ELIUD OWALO

The third Medium-Term Plan (MTP III) of the Kenya Vision 2030 covering the period 2018 – 2022 whose launch is expected in early 2018 will be the 12th cycle of National Development Plan. By the end of MTP III in 2022, the Vision 2030 will have undergone 14 years since inception and will be 8 years shy to its end. Therefore, while the launch of the MTP III will be a major milestone for the Country, widespread concerns abound as to whether the Plan is capable of addressing the myriad economic, social, environmental and political challenges that have traversed the previous national plan cycles.

As MTP III enters the arena, the critical begging question then remains; how can the National and County Governments meet the developmental expectations of Kenyans within a context of rapidly changing environment, population growth and limited resources? There are no straight-jacket answers to this question, but definitely the two levels of Government need to innovatively change their approach to planning and how they conduct business. In the circumstance, it is critical to ensure an efficient and effective continuum in policy, planning, budgeting and execution of Government programmes. The most basic implication is that we must integrate and ensure effective alignment of the planning framework at National; Sectorial; Ministerial and County Government levels if the intrinsic ingredients enshrined in Vision 2030 are to be effectively realized. To this end, I wish to postulate five imperatives to refocus the Country’s strategies and approaches in the MTP III period.

First, is the need to ensure that the MTP III and other lower level plans and strategies are effectively aligned to the Vision 2030 and major global initiatives. Alignment is vital as it ensures that the medium-term plans are able to actualize the goals and objectives of the long term blueprints, be they national, regional or global. Regarding global initiatives, it is important to note that the Vision 2030 incorporated the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which ended in 2015. Moving into the MTP III period, the country should align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which were launched by the United Nations in 2015 to succeed the MDGs.

Alignment of the MTP III with the Vision 2030 and SDGs is the first level of alignment. Whereas this is important, it’s  my considered opinion that from the MTP III, we need to develop a minimum of twenty nine Sectoral Plans; 7 under the Economic Pillar, 6 in the Social Pillar, 2 in the Political Pillar, 11 under the Enablers, and 3 which are crosscutting covering HIV/AIDs; Disaster and Risk Management and Climate Change. Below the Sectoral Plans, all Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies should subsequently develop Strategic Plans aligned to the MTP 111 and the Sectoral Plans. And again at the County level, the County Governments must develop County Integrated Development Plans (CIDPs) which are aligned to the MTP in conformity to the County Governments Act, 2012. Subsequent to these should be Functional Strategic Plans at the County level well-aligned to the County Integrated Development Plans facilitate effective delivery of  the CIDPs.

These lower level plans are important for they form the bedrock upon which Government projects and day to day operations are anchored. Business people, economists and those interested in economic development know about and are likely to interact occasionally with the MTPs. However, very few Kenyans are aware of the Sectoral Plans, and even fewer numbers ever interact with Ministerial Strategic Plans and the County CIDPs. The lacuna in information and low participation in the preparation and execution of these important policy documents is a gap that urgently needs intervention. For example, it should be the interest of all Kenyans to understand in greater details what Government plans to implement in critical sectors such as water, oil and other mineral resources, energy, education, security and peace in the MTP III period.

The second imperative we must address as a Country is how to finance the plans. Budget-making through the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) is well-anchored in the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act, 2012. The National and County Governments participate in the process including the vetting and approvals which are done by the National Parliament and the County Assemblies respectively. The process aside, the Country continues to grapple with unmet revenue targets by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and own revenue sources by County Governments, ever-increasing debt-burden and widespread corruption. These perennial challenges must be urgently addressed by both levels of Government so to realize adequate resources for implementing the MTP and the CIDPs. It is my conviction that we have adequate legal and institutional frameworks to address financial hemorrhage and corruption. We must have Fiscal discipline at both National and County Government Levels if we are to deliver the MTP III and the second cycle of CIDPs.

The third imperative is the need to improve the Country’s performance management framework. For a long time, the public service operated without a performance management framework till the same was introduced in 2003, anchored mainly on Results-Based Management and Performance Contracting. It was admirable when Kenya won a United Nations award in the year 2006 due to noted improvement in public service delivery as a result of Performance Contracting. Unfortunately, the vigour with which performance contracting was launched and implemented has since waned off. If Government is serious with delivery of public goods and services, it must strengthen and institutionalize a comprehensive and sustainable performance management framework at all levels, with the starting point being the rejuvenation of performance contracting. At County level, performance contracting has largely been ignored, with only a few Counties (in the 2013-2017 County Governments) implementing it albeit in a lukewarm manner. My well- considered opinion is that it behooves us Kenyans to push the County Assemblies to enact Legislation that entrenches performance management in the Counties – as the value for this cannot be gainsaid.

The forth critical success factor in my view is the need for reforms in the public service. We need to build on the recent reforms in the public sector that include the afforestated performance management framework and reforms in the Governance, Justice, Law and Order Sector(GJLOs) institutions which for instance saw noticeable improvement in the prisons, police and judiciary. Unfortunately, just like with the Performance management, the reforms have widely waned off. Again to facilitate the desired reforms, the Country urgently needs deliberate initiatives to inform sustainable change in the culture and attitudes of public servants. Let us urgently undertake a National Culture Audit to inform interventions that will close the Culture and Attitudinal Gap to support realization of Vision 2030.

Fifth, we must improve the monitoring, evaluation and reporting framework. The weak monitoring and evaluation could be a deliberate action by public servants to evade accountability. Today, there is scanty information about how government projects are implemented – and in most cases it is almost impossible to know the actual cost of the projects. Kenyan citizens must be kept aware of what Government is doing with the tax-payers money and the monies being borrowed. Furthermore, and very central, the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 requires Government to make available to the public information related to its programmes. Going into the MTP III, therefore, the Government should make good the Constitutional obligation of providing such information to facilitate Accountability that informs efficient utilization of the Country’s resources.

In conclusion, I want to pose a challenge: – What Prospects lie ahead for Kenyans in the period of the Third-Medium Term Plan of the Vision 2030? Will we achieve better results during the MTP III period? Will there be remarkable flagship milestones like the realization of universal primary education under MTP I, improved infrastructure or increased generation of power under both MTP I and MTP II? In sum, will we realize the envisaged 10% Economic Growth rate every year to increase the Per Capita income levels? Will there be enhanced Disposable Income for the Kenyan people to enhance the Marginal Propensity to Save and create wealth that informs Net-Economic Welfare?

Devolution In Kenya- The Gains, Challenges, Opportunities And Emerging Issues.

Devolution In Kenya- The Gains, Challenges, Opportunities And Emerging Issues.

OPINION ARTICLE
BY ELIUD OWALO

Devolution is the decentralization, transfer or delegation of power from a higher to a lower level, especially by central government to local or regional administration. Devolution was at the core of the formation of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC) between 2000 – 2004. The Constitution of Kenya Review Act 2000 required the CKRC to consider people’s participation through the devolution of power, respect for ethnic and regional diversity and communal rights including the right of communities to organize and participate in cultural activities and the expression of their identities. The feeling of being marginalized and neglected, deprived of resources and victimized for political and or ethnic affiliations intensified the push for devolution. There was at that point particular resentment of the Provincial Administration, which was then accused of abuse of powers bestowed upon its officers, while the local authorities were considered to have failed to deliver services but had instead been turned into dens of corruption.

The CKRC detailed proposals for devolution, but however, did not propose structures right down to village level, which were later discussed by delegates at the Bomas of Kenya with input from a Committee of Experts that finally delivered a new Constitution, articulating a devolved-system of Government entailing a National Government and 47 County Governments. Subsequently, the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 as enshrined in Chapter 11 of the Constitution and spelt out in the County Governments Act, 2012 created a decentralized system of government wherein two of the three arms of government; namely the Legislature and the Executive are devolved to the 47 Political and Administrative Units provided for under Article 6 and specified in the First Schedule. The Devolution Chapter of the Constitution established the Intergovernmental Relations Act, 2013, which created key structures, namely a National and County Governments’ Coordinating Summit to help in the regulation and guidance of the relationship and co-existence of the two levels of government to facilitate success of devolution. The Constitution also created the Transition to Devolved Governments Act, 2012 which established the Transition Authority (TA) with the mandate of facilitating and coordinating the transition to the devolved system of government.

Devolution is therefore a key pillar of the Constitution of Kenya by seeking to bring governance closer to the people, with county governments being at the center of dispersing political power and economic resources to Kenyans at the grassroots. The Principles that underpin devolution in the country are that County governments established under the Constitution shall be based on democratic principles and the separation of powers; have reliable sources of revenue to enable them govern and deliver services effectively; and ensure no more than two-thirds of the members of representative bodies in each county government shall be of the same gender.

The primary objective of decentralization is to devolve power, resources and representation down to the local level. Specifically, the objects of devolution of government in Kenya were to promote democratic and accountable exercise of power; foster national unity by recognizing diversity; give powers of self-governance to the people and enhance the participation of the people in the exercise of the powers of the State and in making decisions affecting them; and recognize the right of communities to manage their own affairs and further their development;

Other pertinent intentions were to protect and promote the interests and rights of minorities and marginalized communities; promote social and economic development and the provision of proximate, easily accessible services throughout the Country; ensure equitable sharing of national and local resources throughout the Country; facilitate the decentralization of State organs, their functions and services, from the capital; and enhance checks and balances and the separation of powers. To this end, various laws have been enacted by Parliament to create strategies for the implementation framework and the adoption on which the objectives of devolution can be realized..

The Constitution in the Fourth Schedule assigns functions between the National and County governments. The functions of National Government include Foreign affairs; use of international waters and water resources; immigration and citizenship; Language; agriculture; tourism; monetary; veterinary; energy, health and education policies; national defense; police service; courts; primary schools; transport and communications; and national public work, among others. On the other hand, the functions of county governments include agriculture; health services (excluding national referral hospitals); pollution control; cultural activities; animal control and welfare; trade development and regulation; county planning and development; and pre-primary education, among others.

It is my well-considered opinion that devolution has presented a major transformation of the state and undoubtedly reversed the system of centralized control and authority established by the colonial powers. It now opens the prospects of fundamental and progressive changes in both our politics and the economy. Through devolution, County Governments now not only have the mandate and budgetary provisions to deliver services relevant to the local population but are also required by Law to involve the people in the planning process. So far, we have witnessed County-driven infrastructural development through tarmacking of roads; development of markets; provision of water for both irrigation and domestic use; provision of agricultural and extension services; facilitation of early child development(ECD); enhancement of access to health care; creation of investments and trading blocs; promotion of leadership’ accountability in the utilization of funds; increased public-participation in the prioritization of key projects; and better access to information on both policy and operational issues.

However, fundamental challenges have continued to dog the Counties including irregular or delayed disbursement of devolved funds from the national Exchequer; low revenue collection levels from local sources; weak and uncoordinated planning and execution; stalled projects; inadequate financial  resources; corruption; misallocation of the available financial resources; over-indebtedness including bank overdrafts negotiated to off-set wages and salaries; huge pending bills; bloated workforce; tribalism, nepotism and clannism in the employment and deployment of workers; persistent political wrangling and infighting; inadequate capacity at the county level to effectively and efficiently perform the devolved functions; instances of duplicity of effort at both the national and county levels; and utilization of budgetary allocations on non-core activities in contravention of  the Public Finance Management Act. However, there are opportunities for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and capital inflow; Public-Private Partnerships (PPP); Grants; exchange programmes; and wider markets for local products, that the Counties need to explore and pursue.

Emerging issues within the Counties include the need for better planning; strengthened performance management framework; improvement in quality of County leadership; prioritization of investment in thematic areas based on comparative advantage; strengthened  public participation in project identification, planning and execution; intensified financial resource-mobilization; improved governance framework to facilitate prudent utilization of resources and enforce accountability at all levels; rationalization of staffing levels; optimization of the wage-bill; institutional capacity building; determination of relevant training needs and corresponding staff training; eradication of duplicity of effort; massive sensitization of both leaders and the citizens on relevant pieces of legislation supporting devolution; massive Culture and Attitudinal change programmes; strengthening of the monitoring, evaluation and reporting framework; enhanced strategic alliances and partnerships; effective management of resistance to change; and benchmarking with best-case examples globally. My humble submission is that unless and until the afforestated strategic issues are adequately addressed, it would remain insurmountable for the devolved system of government in Kenya to facilitate prudent, efficient and effective delivery of services to the citizenry at the grassroots. This is my hypothesis.

The Writer is a Management Consultant