The Citizen Handbook

Fundamentals of Devolution

Understanding Devolution


Decentralisation is a process that distributes sovereign power from a central authority to different levels of government. The idea behind decentralization is that local communities and governments can govern themselves and deliver services better than a central government. The Constitution distributes the sovereign power at Kenya’s national level to Parliament, Executive, Judiciary, independent commissions and tribunals. At the county level, the Constitution distributes sovereign power to the 47 country assemblies and county executive committees.

Dimensions of Decentralisation

There are three primary areas of decentralisation, which can occur either independently or jointly. They are as follows:

  · Administrative decentralization refers to the decentralisation of the decision-making institutions (i.e. Parliament, county assemblies, etc.) and procedures that support their operations.

   · Fiscal decentralization refers to the decentralisation of the number and type of services delivered and the revenues assigned to each level of government.

   · Political decentralization refers to the transfer of political decision-making authority and accountability mechanisms available to the levels of government.

Types of Decentralisation

There are three primary types of decentralisation – (1) de-concentration, (2) delegation and (3) devolution. Each type has specific characteristics explained below:

   · De-concentration refers to assigning responsibilities from a national authority to its own sub-national branches in other regions of the country. These branches are to some extent supervised by the national authority. This is the weakest type of decentralisation.









   · Delegation is the form of decentralisation that is in the middle between de-concentration and devolution. It refers to the transfer of some of the national authority's power to semi-independent sub-national and/or non-government authorities. These semi-independent authorities have some freedom to decide how to carry out their responsibilities, but they are ultimately accountable to the national authority.

   · Devolution refers to the near-complete transfer of power from a national authority to near-autonomous sub-national authorities. This is the strongest type of decentralisation. Under devolution, local citizens are empowered to elect their own leaders and make decisions on local matters affecting their communities.

Sms Subscription

Subscribe to periodic sms messages of civic education information by completing the fields below or sending your name free of charge to 20108 on Airtel and Safaricom