Capacity building an integral lever for successful devolution

Tuesday January 2 2018

Council of Governors

Governors during a press conference in Nairobi on December 7, 2017. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

The 2017-2022 regime of governors face higher expectations from Kenyans seeing as criticism of the former crop for poor service delivery culminated in many of them being overwhelmingly voted out.

It then becomes imperative to undertake an end-of-term evaluation to determine the extent of implementation of the first cycle County Integrated Development Plans (CIDPs) and address the challenges that have bedevilled devolution since its inception in 2013 so that the strategic issues emanating therefrom are addressed.

Capacity building of the counties, therefore, becomes a key area in 2018. It should also be of interest and focus for complimentary support by the national government, for obvious reasons.

First, improved capacity at the county level will enhance the policy, planning, budgeting and programme execution continuum at the county level.


This would not only improve absorption of development funds but also enable the counties to conform to the fiscal responsibility principles spelt out in the Constitution and the 2012 Public Finance Management Act to ensure that at least 30 per cent of their budgetary allocation goes into development and not more than 35 per cent into salaries.

Capacity building would also improve the quality of the CIDPs, the core policy blueprints that guide development at the county level. That would translate to more effective functional strategic plans and annual work plans which guide the day-to-day operations of the county government departments, hence better service delivery.

It will also lead to better county policies and laws, hence improved utilisation of local resources and service delivery. Further, it will not only strengthen accountability and fiscal discipline but also enhance own-source revenue collection and management and improved asset management.


What, then, are the opportunities for counties in terms of capacity building that they need to exploit?

First is to appreciate that they have a mix of public servants. The first category is the public servants that they inherited from the national government and, relatively, have some good level of skills and understanding of government operations. However, they still need to be capacity-enhanced to adopt the best practices for county governments.

The other is staff employed by the county governments upon inception in 2013. We know that most of these were largely employed based on county regional dynamics, clannism, nepotism and other non-professional considerations — mainly to reward political supporters. They, therefore, require greater training support.

Considering the responsibilities of county governments, capacity building programmes need to be tailor-made to address specific gaps identified through formal needs assessments.


However, there are some cross-cutting capacity building areas that would be applicable to all counties.

Most significantly, the counties need to undertake demand-driven training programmes based on the mandate and core business of the county governments that is adequately informed by their respective areas of comparative advantage as opposed to supply-driven ones based on personal staff desire.

In effect, the counties should undertake staff development programmes arising from a comprehensive training needs assessment (TNA) that is effectively-aligned to the CIDPs and the corresponding functional strategic plans.

The county governments should also undertake periodic training impact assessment to justify the funds utilised on training during the preceding activity period so that any future training is purely informed by value-proposition.

 Mr Owalo is a management consultant. [email protected]