The Constituency Development Fund has been overtaken by events and should be abolished, and its functions integrated with the county governments.
The reasons for this are, firstly, that devolution achieves the aims of CDF, secondly, CDF duplicates the functions of county governments, thirdly, it will save the public money and finally, it will refocus the MPs on their proper functions.
The CDF was established as a mechanism through which some development priorities could be decentralised and resources transferred to constituencies to enable these priorities to be fulfilled.
Through the inclusion of a poverty index in the computation of the amounts allocated to constituencies, it was hoped that the CDF would go towards redressing historical imbalances between different regions.
These are precisely the aims and functions of county governments. These governments stand to reconfigure development through, not merely a transfer of resources, but also a transfer of responsibility for a county’s development.
County governments will also be better resourced than the CDF, and therefore, there is no need to retain the less ambitious CDF.
For sure, the CDF, where it has worked as hoped, has, in spite of some teething problems, been credited with marked improvements in constituencies: roads, schools, hospitals and police stations have been built.
Students from poor families have benefited from the CDF funded bursaries/scholarships.
But the argument here is not that these initiatives should be abandoned, but rather that county governments have made the CDF unnecessary in its present form.
The transfer of CDF functions has another added benefit — it eradicates duplication — which should save the public money through a rationalisation of all county development programmes.
There is a sense in which CDF really never fully devolved development because the Constituency Development Committees were still accountable to the Constituencies Development Fund Board (CDFB) in Nairobi.
By transferring its functions to county governments, the aspirations for a fuller devolution of development, which includes accountability, will finally be transferred to the counties.
One could, of course, argue that the county is not a constituency. A response to that is that the county governments will have responsibility for the development of all constituencies within the county, hence they do not need another agency, over which they have no control involved as well, using the same scarce public resources.
It makes no sense for CDF managers to go around the constituency inspecting local projects when they are accountable, not to the new local government, but to the national government in Nairobi, and when counties will be employing staff to do the very same thing.
The inevitable outcome of such a transfer is the abolition of the Constituencies Development Fund Board. Employees in this body should be absorbed by county governments or the national government. This rearrangement should save the public some money as well.
The abolition of the CDF does not need to result in the destruction of the Constituency Development Fund Committee (CDFC) structures established by the MPs, where these have worked effectively.
Instead, these committees can be inherited by the county governments, which do not have to start from scratch.
Where these committees have not been working properly, as in cases where their composition is undemocratic, the county governments will have an opportunity to reconstitute them in order to establish an effective framework for achieving development within constituencies in the county.
The transfer of CDF to county governments would address a festering concern among constitutional lawyers namely, the coupling of legislative functions with executive functions.
The integration will go a long way towards restoring MPs to their proper functions, which are making laws and keeping the Executive honest.
Mr Nyamori is an associate professor, La Trobe University’s department of accounting, Victoria, Australia. (R. [email protected])