County governments have, politically speaking, ended the year on a high mainly because the Supreme Court concluded the few remaining electoral petitions a week to Christmas.
Since governors Cyprian Awiti (Homa Bay), Mohamed Abdi Mahamud (Wajir), Dr Alfred Mutua (Machakos) and Martin Wambora (Embu) all won their cases, none of the 47 counties would have a by-election.
But that seems to be the only positive note the counties can be happy about in 2018. Since the repeat presidential election in October last year, county governments have grappled with revenue collection challenges and intermittent funds allocation from the National Treasury.
They are at the tail end of the second formula term, which determines allocations. The first two were to last three years each (2012-2015 and 2015-2018).
The Constitution requires the formula to be proposed by the Commission for Revenue Allocation through a participatory process and handed over to the Senate for deliberation and adoption. The third formula, under debate at the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA), with Ms Jane Kiringai as chairperson, will last for five years, same as all the rest.
CRA, set up under Article 215 of the 2010 Constitution, adopted land, equitable share, population, poverty, and fiscal discipline as parameters for determining resource allocation. It then added development, focusing on 14 devolved functions.
The debate is becoming intense with the publication by CRA of the reasons that informed introduction of the development parameter and giving it more weight than population, poverty and even land surface area. This, predictably, is a hot potato that is going to roll over into the first and second quarter of 2019 as the third formula will determine the 2019/2020 budgetary allocations to the counties.
This year has, uncharacteristically, shone light on counties courtesy of the Auditor-General's reports. But they have, as expected, put up spirited denials and defences against the reports of alleged corruption through misapplication and misappropriation of allocated revenues. Notorious on this count has been Homa Bay, Migori, Busia, Kilifi, Nyamira, Garissa, Mombasa, Muranga, Machakos, Isiolo and Nairobi.
Devolution enthusiasts and county residents have commended the revelations of the Auditor-General Edward Ouko and called for the DCI and the EACC to undertake urgent investigations and conviction of culprits.
Urban management boards have been launched within the counties, where, according to the Urban Areas and Cities (Amendment) Act 2017, Kenya is to have five cities -- Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa, Eldoret and Nakuru -- and 66 municipalities. Cities will be managed by City Management Boards of 11 persons appointed through a participatory and competitive process.
Municipalities will be under Municipal Management Boards.
But governors are wary of the role of these urban boards and how much power and resources the entities would chip away from them, making most of them to drag their feet in operationalising the bodies.
Counties are yet to align their planning, budgets and other resources towards actualising President Uhuru Kenyatta's 'Big Four' agenda of manufacturing, food security, universal health coverage and housing.
However, the Council of Governors has slated the 6th Devolution Conference, [email protected], for March in Kirinyaga County as the forum to fine-tune planning and resources for the Big Four.
This has been an eventful year within the counties, especially on the development front. Makueni's Prof Kivutha Kibwana has been receiving delegations, local and foreign, to benchmark on his government's achievements in the health, agriculture and budgetary management fronts and, more importantly, an inclusive and integrated public participation process of project identification.
County governments can play a huge role in transforming Kenya into a developed, industrialising middle-income economy with a high per capita income through offering transformational leaderships with integrity and patriotic enough to end corruption and be accountable to the people.
The coming year should be a firm block upon which they will continue building their development trajectory.
Mr Burugu is a devolution, policy and governance expert. [email protected]