Strengthening Kenya’s county governments, at cost to U.S. taxpayers of millions of dollars, could spark the redistribution of political power across the African republic, whose national government is viewed as one of the most notoriously corrupt in the world.
Efforts to bring about such decentralization, however, may inadvertently create 47 equally corrupt county systems, the Obama administration has acknowledged.
Obama, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, nonetheless intends to dole out upwards of $50 million in U.S. taxpayer funds to help the Kenyans get it right, according to contracting documents that WND discovered via routine database research.
One potential obstacle to accomplishing the task is the relatively recent discovery of significant oil resources in Kenya, USAID says.
Corruption, therefore, could magnify due to the lack of transparency between the government and the “land and extractive industries.”
The new Kenyan Constitution and related legislation raise the issue of transparency; however, they contain “few if any specific mechanisms” to guarantee it.
USAID is wasting no time in preparing for the five-year endeavor, known as the Harmonized Assistance for Devolved Institutions Project, or AHADI – which means “promise” in Kiswahili.
The agency will meet in Nairobi May 30 with private vendors potentially interested in securing AHADI contracts. The anticipated official execution of the project is the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2013.
USAID says it has learned from prior experience that decentralization, when successfully implemented, can create a “more responsive, open and pluralistic government,” the agency points out in the AHADI Statement of Work.
On the other hand, decentralization “also runs the risk of systemic failure that further exacerbates the problems that it was intended to alleviate – often leading to a frustrated populace and a re-centralization of power.”
“This is nowhere more true than in the Kenyan context,” it says.
This planned diffusion of power – which USAID calls “devolution” – stands to alleviate conflict, improve service delivery and empower Kenyan citizens, according to USAID.
“It could just as easily exacerbate ethnic tension, worsen service delivery and reinforce corruption and unaccountable governance,” the agency admits.
The hiring of a contractor to advise Kenyan county governments is intended to help Kenyan authorities avoid such pitfalls.
The selected company will be tasked with improving a targeted number of county governments, ensuring that the systems are “more informed, capable, transparent, accountable and open to the participation of its citizens – especially historically marginalized groups,” the Statement of Work says.
The contractor also will advise county officials on how to work more cooperatively with each other and with the national government.
While the devolution process aims to more closely connect the Kenyan government with its citizens – thereby increasing transparency and accountability – “it also provides new entry points and opportunities for corruption, and could easily replicate old national patterns of obfuscation, unresponsiveness and unaccountability at the local level.”
The AHADI program is one of several new endeavors that the Obama administration is pursuing in Kenya.
As WND recently reported, Obama is embarking upon a nationwide reading project that aims to improve the skills of children in tens of thousands of Kenyan schools.
Similarly, the administration earlier this year launched new peace initiatives in and around Kenya, despite acknowledging that chronic cattle rustling and other cultural practices – such as killing rivals “to prove their manhood or impress young women” – might impede progress.
WND last year reported Obama administration spending and projects in Kenya had become so voluminous that USAID had to hire more contractors to oversee endeavors other providers already carried out across the African nation.
USAID, in its own words, had admitted that the “overall USAID/Kenya program has increased rapidly and exponentially, outstripping workforce resources available to effectively perform assessments and rigorous analyses … track results … manage recordkeeping, and other project development and program office functions.”
According to a Statement of Work for the USAID/Kenya program-support initiative, the agency acknowledged the level of U.S.-financed Kenyan operations has outpaced Washington’s ability to adequately manage it.
After WND’s reporting, USAID in turn eliminated public access to documents about the unwieldy portfolio of Kenyan projects, which included a formal plan to manipulate Kenyan and global media.