‘Marathon’ country Kenya holds a lesson for Kerala, which is still struggling with baby steps in the area of decentralised governance.

Kerala may have been experimenting with it over the past 15 years, but the African nation has taken big strides despite starting as late as in 2010.

A delegation of the Kenyan Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) is visiting the Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation (GIFT) here to study the Kerala experiment.

The CRA has eight members out of whom four are in the delegation. Director of research and a research assistant also find a place therein.

CRA is mandated to make recommendations on vertical and horizontal transfers to its ‘counties,’ D. Narayana, Director of GIFT, told Business Line.

Decentralised governance, planning and development, he said, are unthinkable without data available at the disaggregated level. This is a lesson Kenyans seem to have learnt early on.

DETAILED DATA

Even before county governments came into existence, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics has put out data on almost every aspect of county life one could think of.

The site provides 37 detailed county-level tables ranging from population by age, sex, disability – main and multiple, to housing details – type, fuel, lighting, activity status and so on.

Kerala, despite over 15 years of experience, has nothing comparable to offer, Narayana said. It all started with Kenya adopting a new Constitution in 2010. Efficient delivery of public services had until then been hindered by a highly centralised government bureaucracy.

NEW CONSTITUTION

Till the adoption of the new Constitution, Kenya was ruled by a Central government with provincial (eight provinces) and district administrations.

Article 174 sought to marginalise traditional provincial and district administrations and effectively replace them with the current structure of local governments.

It now functions through municipalities and town councils with well defined ‘county’ government system.

The reform moves beyond typical approach of devolving functions and resources and recognises broader political and developmental role of county governments.

DEFINING FEATURE

The centralised non-participatory governance paradigm will be reversed by institutionalising a governance and leadership system based on integrity.

The defining feature of the devolution is the transfer of political powers and autonomy to counties.

They are in turn politically accountable to local communities as opposed to the Centre, Narayana said.

vinson.kurian@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 4, 2012)
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