Devolution: Kenya Chapter...

Ever idea or scheme can be good or even great given copious hours of planning and time to working out every possible kink or pitfall sometimes as they arise. This is what was thought of Devolution; it looked like a great concept... on paper and in practice look at America, it has worked there... So there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work for Kenya...Right?
 Africa or at least Zimbabwe, Uganda and Kenya in particular have repeatedly and rather loudly - over booming megaphones – shouted that we don’t look to the West for direction. Guys in case you hadn’t gotten the memo the concept of devolved government *was and is used in America and the UK... more proof? The words Senator and Governor should be a dead giveaway!

Size and population differences between the two notwithstanding devolution has proved its worth and transformative power, in some counties more than others- a shining example of which is Governor Alfred Mutuas- yes the former government spin doctor- Machakos county which demonstrates what the right leadership, planning and more than a little common and financial sense can do for a county.

What Is Devolution?:
If you don’t for some reason know what devolution is maybe it’s that you’ve been wondering around the galaxy, or been under a rock for the last many decades, are too young or just haven’t read a newspaper or watched TV in more years than I can count or just have absolutely zero interest in the greater world around you- well I shall explain it to you;

simply it is the transfer of power from a central sovereign government aka the president to local government or the governor. In other words when things go awry which they sometimes do the people of said county plead not so much with the president for action but with their governor and or senator. This type of delegated governance frees the president up to deal with things on a more national scale instead of having to worry about each county. So it works out quite well for mister president.

It Could Be So Good:
If done properly devolution can inspire great competition among leaders with each motivated and striving hard to make their county the best, most beautiful hub of all industry and or vacationing. If the leaders we elected saw it as an opportunity to not only prove their worth and Midas touch but were motivated by a deep love for their county and country and saw the need to make life easier for their citizens this country as whole would be one big shining success story where every system worked and all problems were solved quickly and without fuss.

This is a fantasy of my own dream filled minds creation and the people, depending on the county they live in can more accurately tell you just how much of a fanciful daydream this is. The reality of the matter is however that devolution isn’t doesn’t and more importantly the governors and senators (most of them anyway) don’t seem to love and care anything for their counties. Instead they are busy making laws to add taxes to the most outrageous things imaginable: like death and church crusades and other religion or politics related events, now this would not be such a harsh blow to live with if the monies that were collected went to something other than the county governments’ upkeep and because the governors are allowed by law to make the rules and regulations that govern their counties independent of central government and one size no longer fits all some counties have bigger tax burdens to bear than others.

Let There Be Tax:
Taxation is already high across the nation and with everything boasting a fat VAT added to its original price life is not only harder but more expensive for all Kenyans with most now unable to afford milk and bread that are essential to most every breakfast table with many having resorted to black tea and any substitution to go with it. Dead and gone are the days when 3000-4000/= bought you your money’s worth at a local supermarket now you would need almost double that to satisfy the needs of a medium sized family for less than a month. Certainly gone are the ages when a 1000 bob could fill up a tank and be enough to travel to our ancestral homes and back into the city again and to think that same amount of money could get you bags of groceries or fresh produce at the market and some change left over just a few decades ago... Times have truly changed, and to think how we moaned about how expensive life was even back then!

Strange new taxation laws have made Kenyans in general glad to be living where they live, if the prospective bills are passed: for example those living in Busia may have to contend with paying for anything from a burial, wedding, to rearing chickens and dogs and crusades!
The bill seeks to impose additional levies and charges to help boost the county’s revenue: Locals may be  expected to pay:

 Sh1,000 to social hall per session
Sh10,000 (funeral service)
Sh20,000 (crusade fee)

 Sh30,000 (wedding fee)
Sh5,000 (church meeting)
Sh200 (to view a body at a mortuary per family).

That adds up to a KSH 230 Million annual tax collection.

I wouldn’t want to live in Busia if this bill- proposed in January of this year is passed into law. This is not however the only county putting a tight squeeze around its citizens wallets and purses.

A chicken tax will be imposed in Kakamega and Elgeyo Marakwet counties: if it passes residents will have to pay 20 ksh for every chicken living in Kakamega’s urban area, and 25 Ksh for every chicken in Elgayo Marakwet. It is unclear however if the owner will be made to foot the bill.   
If that’s not bad enough men of the cloth in Nyeri are also staring down the barrel of taxation; the plan there is to place a heavy tax on church activities such as: a 10,000 KSH fee to hold a crusade per day, and the news only gets worse as these charges vary.

In Kiambu County even burials are taxed and governors say is all in a bid to earn revenue. That would be fine if the budget in these counties wasn’t so miss managed with the lion’s share of a county budget being dedicated to large gas guzzlers and paying the members of their cabinets.

AS it stands now the only people reaping the benefits of devolution are their key players the Governors and Senators as they earn both a salary and whose expenses are paid for. A fat pay check that they have already tried to fatten at least once already.


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