A recent study by Twaweza, an NGO active in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, showed that corruption still plagued devolution in Kenya.
Devolved government, a product of the 2010 Constitution, sought to decentralise service provision and development planning. As such, a lot of central government functions were decentralised to the counties.
County governments now had the responsibility of implementing development programmes according to their priorities. The idea behind this bold experiment was to divorce development from the mercy of the central government which, given our post-independence reality, was a one-man show.
Over the years, the president had emasculated institutions meant to act as checks and balances to become a demigod.
In an essay, Prof Ali Mazrui describes at length this process of making political authority holy, and the president a deity. He writes that some of the vainglorious names presidents heaped on themselves, such as “The Redeemer” as Kwame Nkrumah called himself, had Christ-like attributes. The all-powerful president determined which area got development, how much, and how often.
Development was used to coerce, entice or punish, according to political interests of the president. Such a governance system was whimsical, arbitrary, wasteful and thoroughly corrupt.
How Kenya, and by extension Africa, hoped to develop on the basis of such a system boggles the mind.
The 2010 Constitution, and the devolved system of government, intended to bring order, planning, national purposefulness and development science back into governance. The Constitution also sought to eliminate corruption.
But we seem to have decentralised thievery. Governors, through proxy companies, do businesses with their counties. Multimillion-shilling tenders are awarded to family members and cronies. Kickbacks are demanded from businesspeople intending to invest in the counties.
Members of County Assemblies, who are supposed to ensure proper use of county resources, also ride gleefully on the gravy train. They demand allowances and bigger salaries.
They make fake or inflated travel claims. Their beloved scam is to go on “bench-marking” trips abroad to rake in millions in travel allowances. Those on tender committees know which side of their bread is buttered. Within a short time, previously penniless MCAs become millionaires.
These money-making scams are replicated in the National Assembly and Senate. The scams in central government ministries are larger. Then the establishment of endless funds in aid of this or that initiative, but whose oversight is just smoke and mirrors.
Were a foreigner to see ministers attending a Cabinet meeting in their multimillion-shilling fuel guzzlers, they can be forgiven for thinking that Hollywood stars are in town.
The Constitution, meant to bring national purposefulness back to governance and eliminate thievery, has been circumvented. It now remains a series of well-sounding clauses.
Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator