DEVOLUTION GEMS SPARKLE MOMBASA RESIDENTS’ LIVES
When Kenyan history will be told, one of the epic features will certainly be the contribution that devolution has made to the socio-economic well being of the Kenyan people.
In Mombasa, one just needs to take a tour of the Coast region’s referral hospital, the Coast Provincial General Hospital (CPGH) to appreciate what devolution has achieved and what it can achieve with sound and efficient management of resources.
Today, the CPGH is a referral for all the six counties in the larger coast region which means that the effects of devolution in Mombasa are being felt across the region.
The health sector is just one of the many gems that residents of Mombasa and the entire country can proudly talk of as fruits of the devolved system of governance.
Better healthcare, modern sporting facilities, enhanced infrastructure development, improved agricultural services, youth and women empowerment, ease of doing business among many others attest to the inclusivity that defines devolution.
Agriculture which had not been given serious consideration, programmes have been instituted with more activities and sooner than later we will be having products sold in Mombasa coming from the county.
In the area of youths sports and gender, the county has put up modern stadia including now the ongoing refurbishment of the former Mombasa Municipal Stadium and within very short time talented youths will be lining up to sign for lucrative sporting deals and getting gainful engagement thus reducing the incidences of immoral activities .
Indeed, what the 2010 constitution had envisaged where resources, opportunities and decision-making is brought to the people, cannot be gainsaid.
County Executive for Devolution and Public Service Administration Mr Seth Odhiambo Odongo says the objective of the department is to ensure that the spirit and letter of devolution is felt by wananchi at the grassroots.
“For a very long time essential services were centralized at the top but in the new dispensation people need to get services at their doorstep and this is already being felt in Mombasa.
“This can be explained by the administration structure that starts from the ward level to the sub county and eventually to the county level. Currently, we have administrators up to the ward level and soon we will move to the lowest level at the village level once funds permit,” adds Mr Odongo.
A lot has been achieved for Mombasa, five years after devolution was introduced but according to Mr Odongo, this has been achieved through the participation of the people to get their priorities and concerns met. Public participation remains the driving force for devolution.
The County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP), County Dialogue, Civic Education and Barazas have ensured that people are fully involved in decision making to determine resource distribution.
Whatever the county is planning must resonate with what the people want as their needs.
“As we go to the devolution Conference in Kakamega, Mombasa County will be showcasing achievements made in all the sectors such as health, urban development, agriculture, inspectorate operations and to fully market the port city as an important business hub for local and international investors,” Mr Odongo says.
The devolution conference provides opportunities for showcasing, benchmarking and gauging the county’s strength and weaknesses. Where other counties are doing better Mombasa County can borrow to give it a competitive advantage in service delivery to the people.
It is possible that apart from marketing Mombasa County to development partners, opportunities may arise for people who may want to fill the gap in areas that we have not been able to do well
One area that has stood out and become the main focus within and outside the county is healthcare that has made Mombasa a perfect example of how devolution can transform the health sector- latest machines and equipment, highly modernized Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and qualified personnel has made CPGH a referral for all the Coastal counties.
Similarly, Mr Odongo says the County Inspectorate has now become the source of pride especially with regard to management of traffic through the ever present and agile traffic marshals. Several Counties have been trooping to Mombasa to learn how the county has been able to put up an efficient, knowledgeable and disciplined traffic marshal system.
The image the inspectorate is projecting is far above what people were used to during the days of the local authorities when council askaris were associated with intimidation and sleaze. During the outbreak of Chikungunya in Mombasa, the inspectorate played a crucial role in mobilizing and helping residents.
Devolution thrives through the participation of the people in what is known as civic responsibility-identification and planning of projects is done through public participation. Unfortunately, the County Administration observes a lethargic nature in which the local population goes about county issues.
It still appears like the population does not know what their role is in devolution.
Mr Odongo says there is need to engage in serious civic education to increase the rate of civic interaction.
One cannot overlook the critical role that funding plays in ensuring the success of devolution. Unfortunately, though, funding for devolution from the treasury has been erratic. The projections are not definite making planning a very difficult affair because meeting timelines is equally not definite.
The County proposes legislation that will ensure that available natural resources benefit the local people of Mombasa County. If we are to get just a small portion of what is generated at the Port or the Kenya Ferry we would be talking of service delivery more and not lack of resources.
Going forward, Mr Odongo says nothing good comes without challenges and responsibilities. Attitude change is paramount and must be inculcated in the people. “A case in point is waste management that with proper civic engagement should have seen a shift in the way garbage is disposed.
“We want the people to give us feedback so that everyone can own the process of devolution,” said Mr Odongo.
As we reap the benefits of devolution there has to be commensurate level of public participation as a civic duty. However much effort the County puts if the residents fail to take responsibility and patriotism all this will be exercise in futility.
“We are only stewards of devolution but resources belong to the people and therefore their active participation is an important plank for its success,” said the County Executive.