“Policy” seems to be the current catchword of the government. It is undoubtedly a good thing for the government to plan carefully what it intends to do, and to share its intentions with us – indeed even better if they ask us what we think about its intentions.
In fact the constitution requires both: it stresses that good governance, transparency and participation of the people are among the national values.
Participation cannot be meaningful if the people do not know what the issues are. The Ministry of Devolution and Planning has been working on a “Devolution Policy”.
This is not about whether we should have a devolved system of government – the people of Kenya have already decided that by adopting the constitution – but about how the national government should carry out its own responsibilities for making devolution a success.
To do them justice, they have invited comments on their draft.
A useful policy paper should explain what the issue or set of issues is, how the government proposes to approach dealing with the situation, including why it has adopted certain approaches, and perhaps why it has rejected others.
It should be clear, and enable us to judge in the future whether the government has actually done what it said it planned to do. The draft Devolution Policy (June 2015 version) relies upon certain trendy forms of analysis, or what you might call “development-speak”, including a SWOT analysis and pillars of development.
You may be fortunate enough to be ignorant of these substitutes for thought. SWOT stands for STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, OPPORTUNITIES and THREATS, and is intended to constitute a situation analysis.
In this particular instance, there are lists, but not analysis. And some of the factors mentioned as strengths are identified as weaknesses.
The factors identified are stated in very general terms and it is not clear to the reader what are the particular strengths, weaknesses, opportunities or threats.
More importantly, it is not clear at all from the draft policy which, if any, specific measures to be taken to address the weaknesses and threats that have been identified from the SWOT analysis.
“Pillars” are a favourite metaphor in policy documents – here there is a list of “Pillars of the Devolution Policy”, alternatively described as “Independent Variables” that lead to “Development and Democracy” by way of “intervening variables” or “Objects of Devolution”.
All this makes no sense. The draft policy does not explain how these 11 pillars were arrived at, how they relate to the SWOT analysis, such as it is, nor, indeed how they relate to the nine policy objectives of devolved governance under Article 174 of the constitution, which are also quoted. And, within each of these “pillars”, the specifics (“policy measures”, perhaps the bricks that form the pillars?) are very often equally vague, feel-good statements with little concrete content.
Improving this, promoting that, educating the people about the other, making sure the law is enforced and officers are accountable for their behaviour
Do we need a policy document to tell us this? Perhaps the most remarkable aspect