Only titles changed in provincial system

Thursday August 27 2015

One of the biggest arguments by the proponents of the Constitution was that the provincial administration had become a law unto itself and was annoyingly beholden to the system.

They argued that the provincial commissioners, district commissioners, district officers, chiefs and sub-chiefs had become an extension of the National Government, and had to be done away with.

Section 17 of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution directs the government to, within five years of the 2010 promulgation, “restructure” the system to fit into the devolved governance.

As the country celebrates the Constitution’s fifth birthday, the former powerful officers are in limbo over their new roles.

They are stuck between a National Government that has been accused of holding on to the days of old and aggressive county governments, which feel threatened and would do everything to cut them to size.

They have lost the status and the affluence that came with their offices. The pomp and colour that used to follow them has been slowly phased out by the new kid on the block — an all-powerful elected governor.


After the March 2013, elections, the county commissioners — who are arguably the only remaining visible face of the provincial administration— came before the governors.

Dr Obuya Bagaka of the Kenya School of Government in his paper ‘Restructuring the provincial administration: An insider’s view’, calls the system a necessary evil.

“As much as critics may castigate it as a colonial evil, it is a necessary evil needed for the smooth running of National Government’s policies and programmes at the local level,” he said.

But Law Society of Kenya Chairman Eric Mutua said fundamentally, the system has remained as it was.

“What Parliament and the National Government did is to just change their names, but the officers are still beholden to the National Government,” he said.

We now have 47 county commissioners (akin to former DCs), eight regional coordinators (former PCs), the deputy county commissioners (former DOs).

A county secretary is the head of public service and secretary to the cabinet in the counties and wields a lot of power in the devolved units.