Raila Odinga, the leader of the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition party, has issued a stern warning to President William Ruto’s government, expressing concern about what he views as interference with the functions of devolved regions.
Speaking in Mombasa on Friday following a meeting with Governors elected under the coalition, Odinga emphasized the significance of devolution as outlined in the Constitution. He criticized President Ruto’s administration for what he perceived as meddling in the affairs of Governors, particularly in the health sector and resource allocation, which he believes has hindered effective service delivery.
“We believe that the 2010 Constitution established a framework through which Kenyans can directly benefit from national resources via devolution… While County Governors are striving to fulfill their duties as stipulated in the 2010 Constitution, the national government appears to be working even harder to undermine their efforts,” Odinga stated.
“The National Government must respect the Constitution and refrain from interfering in the functions of County Governments. They must cease their current interference in the execution of devolved functions, including the distribution of fertilizer, market construction, healthcare, and the establishment of industrial parks.”
The opposition leader also criticized the current government for its reluctance to allocate funds to the counties and its alleged attempt to exert control over county leaders by urging them to collaborate with the national government.
According to Odinga, the government’s calls for opposition Governors to cooperate for the sake of development are considered coercive, as it is the right of every county to receive its allocations on time.
“There is a need to amend the County Governments Act to ensure that funds allocated to the Counties are released promptly, eliminating the current bureaucratic requirements that force Governors and county officials to travel to Nairobi to seek approval for their requests,” he asserted.
“The National Government should release the allocated funds to County Governments in a timely manner to enhance efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery. This will help prevent worker strikes that often disrupt service delivery to the public.”
He added, “Governors should be granted autonomy in managing their respective Counties. The role of the national government is to provide funding in accordance with the law, not to coerce Governors into submission. The two levels of government should complement each other rather than one being subordinate to the other.”
Furthermore, Odinga announced that the opposition coalition would advocate for an increase in the allocation of funds to counties from the current 15% to a minimum of 35% in order to strengthen devolution. He argued that counties are grappling with challenges such as high living costs, excessive taxation, rising fuel prices, and unemployment, which have hampered many projects in devolved regions.
“To enhance devolution, we propose that resources allocated to counties be increased from the current 15% to a minimum of 35%. This proposal will be presented to the National Dialogue Committee convening at the Bomas of Kenya for consideration,” Odinga stated.