SITUATION BEFORE THE INITIATIVE BEGUN
Community infrastructure has been very poor in the rural areas thereby inhibiting economic activities and development of over 20 million people. Their social status remained deplorable. The national budget was focused on the macro systems and hardly addressed the grassroot situation. The biggest hurdle was to get Parliament to enact the proposed legislation.
ESTABLISHMENT OF PRORITIES
The priorities were:
Passage of the legislation by Parliament
Setting up the operating systems
Flow of funds to the constituency accounts
Identification of projects by the people
The first priority was achieved through intense lobbying within Parliament. The next two priorities were affected mainly through the efforts of the select committee in pushing for action diplomatically through the corridors of Government. The committee comprised both men and women from different political parties and from all parts of the country. The last priority involved educating the general public by the National Management Committee through the media.
FORMULATION OF OBJECTIVES AND STRATEGIES
Establish the fund
Set up the management system
Start implementation of projects
The most basic objective was to establish the fund through an Act of Parliament which would ensure that money would be available for grassroots projects every year irrespective of the government in power and in every part of the country irrespective of their political inclination. The next objective was to establish a workable management system. It was also important to get the first batch of projects implemented which would give the necessary confidence to both the people and to the government operatives that the system works.
MOBILIZATION OF RESOURCES
The formulation stage took a personal input by the initiator on paperwork and on time. Parliament as an institution facilitated several informal sessions for members which gave the initiator a relaxed opportunity to explain and receive comments on the proposed legislation before the formal debate.
After the law was in place Parliament nominated the Select committee to oversee policy matters and the National Management Committee was appointed. The two committees took a lead role in putting the management structures in place and the implementation process. They worked in close consultation with the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Planning while setting up the operating systems including the distribution formula which took into account the population and poverty index of every constituency.
On the ground the communities made their choices of projects and elected project committees. The Constituency Development Committees (CDC) under the stewardship of the Members of Parliament have the job of moderating the choices to a rational priority list. They also oversee implementation on the ground including regulating the disbursements to projects with due regard to progress and proper utilization of funds released. The CDC, in turn, operates under the District Accountant who is the custodian of the constituency bank account.
It all started with the motion in Parliament in 2000 calling for 5% of government revenue to be reserved for grassroots infrastructure which was passed though with an amendment brought by the Minister for Finance toning the figure down to 2.5%. After nearly a year of trying to negotiate on an appropriate mechanism of implementing the motion it was realized the government technocrats were quite reluctant. The initiator therefore decided to embark on the long and tedious process of pushing legislation through Parliament. Treasury wanted all projects to be implemented through contractors after public tender advertisements. The Select Committee, on the other hand, was pushing for a simplified system in view of the small size and localized nature of CDF projects. A middle ground was in due course agreed on where project committees employ direct labour, local artisans and local purchase of materials.
Initially people were hesitant to come to meetings, not sure if the programme was real. This changed after seeing that they can identify a project and it actually comes up. Improved participation came with the problem of too many suggestions of projects which, if not checked, has the danger of having too many small projects with very low development impact. This has now improved through civic education to more focused development goals. Before the advent of CDF most of the grassroots projects were initiated and implemented by the communities through the harambee system where everybody would contribute what one can, they form a committee and go ahead with their project the best way they knew how with little planning and with little reference to outsiders, government included. The trend continued even after the CDF programme came and the health sector was particularly badly hit. It would appear there was very serious shortage of health facilities as over a thousand new health centres came up within about two years, in all manner of shapes and sizes that did not fit with the Ministry of Health standards. The problem is being addressed through standardization workshops.The grassroots project committees have woken up to the wisdom of seeking technical advice.
A comprehensive website has been developed where one can get nation-wide information on disbursements and the nature of problems in different parts of the country as reflected in their choice of projects. One of the main problems that remain to be solved is for constituencies to come up with strategic plans covering several years.
CDF has helped to narrow the gap between the haves and have-nots. It has brought out the need for more liaison between the government executive, Parliament and the communities.
The national policy on development has been changed accepting the need to address and to provide for the grassroots infrastructure problems linked to local challenges. Technocrats have widened their scope while drawing the national budget.
Proper planning within given financial limits is now appreciated and practiced down to grassroots levels.
The whole system of how we viewed economic development has changed with the need to partnerships in the decision-making processes being institutionalized through the CDF structures.
Parliament has learnt that they can come up with legislation which in conjunction with the executive can make a big difference in the lives of the people
The national planners have learnt that they can achieve a lot by accommodating the lower level needs even if only a small proportion. The communities have taken up the challenges of priotizing what is most beneficial to them which they can undertake within the resources available while knowing very well that there are other needs waiting.
It has increased the participation of women and young people in the decision making process of community affairs.
Many facilities have come that were previously only a dream; over 1000 new health centres, about 10,000 primary schools improved, education bursary to over 200,000 students who would otherwise lose the opportunity for higher education.
The programme was schemed into law through which a minimum of 2.5% of government revenue is allocated as part of government budget each year thereby guaranteeing the source of finance for the fund.
It is helping the Government carry out one of its primary duties of developing the country therefore will want it to continue.
Elaborate management structures have been put up in place which help in sustainability alongside accountability.
Legislation in Parliament brought a programme with major benefits to the people. It came with a whole system of regulation framework for operation at national, district and constituency level. Formal standards for the health and other sectors have been developed. The decision-making process has been successfully devolved to the grassroots and the roles at each level well defined. While the people have a relatively free hand on the choice of projects, the District Accountant remains the custodian of the bank account and the District Development Officer ensures compliance with the procedures. These inter-related checks and balances have helped to keep graft to a minimum.
The CDF programme has come to be admired by other countries in the African Region and is likely to be replicated by several of them who have sent delegations for briefings on how it works; Tanzania, Uganda, Namibia, South Africa, Lesotho, Sudan.
The people now know many of the community problems they have been struggling with can be addressed through Parliament. The CDF system will continue because the people will demand continuation and at the same time they will expect to continue being involved.
The success of the CDF programmes is likely to influence the Government and Parliament in particular, to revisit the various other devolved funds in the country and establish a clear management structure with a statute where there is none.
Legislation is an important tool to effect changes on the approach to solving development and other national problems.
Through the CDF experience the country has developed a lot of consultative respect between the various different levels in society.
There may be resistance to new ideas but that is not enough reason to relax pursuit if you are committed to achieving an objective. The people will eventually come along if you take time to explain.
The load of national development agenda becomes lighter if you devolve the system within a framework that lets the various levels make their contributions uninhibited.
In the process of steering the operations of the Fund the Select Committee visited other countries to compare notes on how they handle grassroots development; India, Brazil, Egypt, Tanzania, Ghana, Panama, Canada. Several lessons were learned, among them:
A fund meant for capital development should be kept as such and not be unduly entangled with recurrent expenditure
Let political leaders play a guiding role in development.
We made some amendments to the Act in October 2007 and some of the experiences in other countries were taken into account in the process. It also came out clearly that whereas the CDF concept can work everywhere there is need for some re-molding to suit other countries taking into account the different political and administrative structures, their level of development in various sectors and the social attitudes of the people.
There are other devolved funds in Kenya some of which came through statutes while others were introduced administratively in a government ministry. They have operated with varying levels of success, but one thing that has come out clearly is that it is easier to manage and to monitor what is happening and also avoid abuse when there is a statute in place.