Supporting Devolution in Kenya through the Canadian Experience

Three county legislators from Elgeyo Marakwet County in Kenya visited Canada to learn about Canada’s experience with fiscal devolution, budget allocation, public consultation and citizen oversight of the budget process.  Issues that are particularly relevant to county officials in Kenya, who received additional budgeting authority under the constitution adopted by voters in 2010.

Albert Kochei, speaker of the county assembly, and two other assembly members, Gilbert Cheruiyot and Festus Kirop traveled to Canada as part of the International Republican Institute’s Rising Stars program that exposes up and coming leaders to successful democratic practices in other countries.

In partnership with the Parliamentary Centre based in Ottawa, the program offered the assemblymen the opportunity to observe and learn from Canadian counterparts, taking best practices and new ideas back to Kenya.

Throughout the week, Speaker Kochei and his colleagues met with a range of Canadian experts, including representatives from Finance Canada who described the national-provincial finance transfer system used in Canada’s highly decentralized political system. 

The delegation also met with the city of Ottawa’s auditor general and integrity commissioner.  While an auditor general position exists at the county level in Kenya, the relationship between that office and the elected leadership in the county assembly and county executive office is not as effective as it could be.  Upon hearing about the millions of dollars the Ottawa auditor general has saved the municipality, the delegation remarked upon their own need to improve relations with auditor general and began developing strategies to do so upon returning home.

A highlight of the weeklong exchange was a meeting with a group of development practitioners, former Canadian ambassadors, academics and Honorable Mauril Bélanger, a member of the Canadian Parliament, who discussed the importance of his constituency office in Ottawa, which the delegation visited during the week.  He impressed upon the delegation the role of the constituency office as a primary means of communication with his constituents and the need to have knowledgeable, dedicated staff who represent his office well. 

Launched in 2007, IRI’s Rising Stars initiative exposes leaders of transitioning or newer democracies to best practices in democratic governance.  Through these initiatives, IRI is cultivating a global network of democratically-minded leaders.  The exchange was organized to support the devolution process in Kenya, which has been ongoing since the passage of a new constitution in 2010 and the election of county governors and assembly members in March 2013.  

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