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The Impact of Devolution Policy on Water Service Delivery in Kenya

Various institutional models for the governance of water services have been implemented in different nations with varying degrees of success. Devolution is one such model, in which both political policymaking authority and fiscal resources are decentralised to subnational government units. Assigning specified responsibilities to various levels of government is a crucial design future of the institutional arrangements enacted through devolution policy. This article examines how the assignment of functions within Kenya's existing institutional structure, in accordance with devolution policy, has impacted the country influenced the provision of water services. The article is based on qualitative data drawn from twenty-six semi-structured interviews with policy actors from the national and county levels of government, as well as non-governmental water sector actors. Transcribed data were analysed using thematic coding through Dedoose, a tool for qualitative data processing. The article establishes that a lack of clarity on functional assignment in the devolution institutional arrangements has led to opportunistic actors, primarily from the national government, exercising their powers to assert a dominant position in water services delivery, even in functional competencies assigned to the county governments, thereby impeding the achievement of optimal outcomes in water supply services. The article concludes that when designing institutional arrangements for public service delivery in multilevel governance regimes, it is crucial that the adopted configuration recognises and adequately addresses the political complexity inherent in the distribution of authority and attendant fiscal resources through a clear definition in the legal framework, of explicit functions assigned to each level of government and concurrent functions to be undertaken jointly by both levels and how these should be coordinated. To make devolution policy more effective, the assignment of functions should also be proportional to the scale of the policy issues being addressed at what level in order to avoid situations of institutional mismatches that could undermine the desired governance outcomes.

Devolution, Institutions, Functional Assignment, Water Services Delivery

James Origa Otieno, Joseph Okeyo Obosi, Justine Mokeria Magutu. (2023). The Impact of Devolution Policy on Water Service Delivery in Kenya. Journal of Public Policy and Administration, 7(3), 127-140.

Copyright © 2023 Authors retain the copyright of this article.
This article is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License ( which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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