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The successes of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) as

a strategy for rural development in Kenya.

The Constituency Development Fund (CDF) concept came into effect in the year
2003 following the enactment of a private members bill legislation i.e. the CDF
Act of 2003 that required that at least 2.5% of the government’s ordinary revenue
be allocated to the 210 constituencies to facilitate development in the
constituency level. This was a better method of district development than its
(i) The District Focus for Rural Development (DFfRD), initiated in the
1980’s which was more of a bureaucratic process than participation,
with funding subject to fluctuations in allocation from the treasury and
consequently the parent ministry.
(ii) The Local Authority Transfer Fund (LATF) which enjoys a 5% of the
annual governments revenue in allocation, but whose huge overhead
costs and the fact that many local authorities are bogged by debts and
mismanagement, the impacts of the same have been negligible.

The funds allocation is done on the two basis, one on a flat rate basis – this
accounts for 75% of the annual CDF monies while the remaining 25% is
allocated on the basis on constituency poverty levels. From the fund, the
constituency committee through the help of the manager – a recently created
position that injects professionalism into the fund, can spend 10% on education
support activities viewed as projects for purposes of the act e.g. constituency
bursaries. However, from the CDF act 2003, the percentage allowed for
emergency reserve (this is not usually committed but is to be set aside to
address emergencies that arise at the constituency level from time to time) is 5%
of the years allocation, that allowed for office expenditure all account for a
maximum of 3% of the specific CDF allocation for the year and reimbursements
for officers shall not exceed 3% of the annual allocation . This implies that the
money free for development (including the educational ceiling expenditure
allowed) is a whooping 89% or even more depending on the efficiencies. Such a
level of efficiency even makes some of the best managed NGO’s pale in
comparison, no wonder in the few years of its existence, the fund has impacted
heavily on the lives of Kenyans and underneath are some of the successes of the
CDF fund.

The fund has enabled Kenya to attain real economic and resource
decentralization, something that had been elusive since independence. The
decentralization is considered real in the light of two overriding aspects i.e. the
power to incur expenditure has been devolved to the constituency level. Its
important to note that in Kenya, the constituency level is usually a smaller area
than a district and where this is not true, then the constituencies boundaries are
those of the district. In essence, this implies that the fund is superior in terms of
representation to its predecessor, the DFfRD. The grass roots representation is
enabled through the appointment of committee members to the CDF committee
where they represent the face of the areas they represent or so its assumed.
They come with local area priorities and proposals for possible funding. This
ensures there is representation to the lowest level. Success is the fact that,
unlike other initiatives and Acts, the CDF act has elicited the most level of interest
from the media, civil society groups and even the citizens. As a result therefore,
the level of awareness on the fund are high thereby contributing to the high
rankings the fund has received since its inception.

Through the CDF initiative, many students from needy backgrounds have been
able to sail through their academics. This is because the fund allows up to 10%
to be used as bursary vote head. The CDF has complimented the traditional
bursary fund channels e.g. from the ministry, the private sector etc which were
not only inadequate but also hard to access. The CDF fund has also ensured
that efficient use of the monies is what happens. This is through the ceiling
legislation that ensures that there are no overheads, thereby dedicating a huge
chunk of the fund into development projects.

The emergency kitty allowed in the CDF kitty statutes, enables in real time
response to emergencies at the constituency level. For instance, in event of
emergency e.g. a bridge being washed away by floods, the CDF emergency kitty
is the most timely response an area can have pending government budgetary
allocation either at the new financial year or through a supplementary budget.

A number of projects and programmes that affect the livelihoods of the people
directly have been enacted e.g. health centers, schools, purchase of learning
materials, building of social halls/markets/ road maintenance/community water
projects etc these have reduced the total average walking distances to the
facilities such as health and water points thereby reallocating the time to more
development oriented activities. Through the betterment of schools facilities, the
overall competitiveness advantage of the former academic giants over the local
schools in the spatial economy is slowly being taken care of.

The other obvious success, is the fact that the CDF though a product of
transformative politics, has vested the implementative, prioritization and most
importantly, the appraisal role on the people. In the light of this, a number of MPs
in the 9th parliament were voted out due to a number of factors chief among them
the mismanagement of the CDF kitty. The fact that the CDF kitty is entrenched in
the laws makes it more authoritative as a development strategy in Kenya,
enabling it to have the ability to live through regime changes, this is not true for
the District Focus for Rural Development which is founded on a presidential

The fund has received incredible support and follow up from the media, the
legislation, enactment, awareness and implementation. This has made the fund a
success in most aspects. The funds support for the local micro-economic

enterprises and ability to create jobs in the local economy cannot be
underestimated. E.g. through the building of schools, health centers etc the local
entrepreneurs and professionals have got jobs, thereby expanding the local
economies through this form of government expenditure.

Despite the listed successes, a number of challenges do exist as far as the funds
performance is concerned. For instance, there have been cases of fund
embezzlement. This led to the need by the government to employ managers who
will be attached to each Constituency to inject professionalism in the CDF
operations. Proper prioritization has also been a challenge leading to many
constituencies undertaking multiple projects i.e. spreading the resources wide but
thin, in this respect some projects have been ongoing since the funds inception.
This has the negative effect of increasing the target projects costing especially
when inter year inflations are taken into account. The benefits of such projects
have also been delayed as a result of this.

There have been cases where outgoing MPs had made commitments in principle
to undertake certain projects even before disbursement only to be voted out of
office. This has given the new MPs a nightmare in balancing the resurgent and
emergent project needs while at the same time maintaining a delicate balance
not to be seen as unwilling to undertake the projects that were in the ‘pipeline’.
Its also difficult to implement projects that cut across constituency boundaries
especially where the MPs of the neighboring constituencies are of different
political inclinations. This has in many cases led to un-necessary duplication and
establishment of micro-projects that are either not economical, efficient or both.
Within the constituency itself, there are areas that are faced by opposing political
ideologies that turn the CDF concept as a political battle ground at the
constituency level, with unwarranted project delays or objections.

The representative ness of the CDF committees – one of the most vital organs in
the implementation of the fund, has been left in the hands of the politicians

notably the sitting MPs who in most cases appoint their cronies to sit in these
committees. This has the effect of eroding the overall trust of the populace on the
fund operations which some consider clandestine. A number of politicians have
also attempted to use the CDF monies as a political bait i.e. in some areas,
councilors or councilor wannabe’s masquerade as the bursary section members
with powers to influence allocation decisions in order to gain political mileage.

The apparent lack of follow up mechanisms within the CDF fund systems have
not yielded the best results in most areas. For instance, there are projects that
have never been initiated or completed in some areas within the projected time
line, this is largely due to the absence of follow-up, unlike funds from e.g.
development partners or direct government expenditures which are usually open
to scrutiny and maintain an open book policy.

The fact that the fund is tagged to a percentage of the governments annual
revenue (7.5%) means that the funds allocation depends on the economic
performance. i.e. in event of an economic decline, then the funds that shall reach
the constituency levels will like wisely dwindle with a sure negative boomerang
effect on the incumbent MP who will be hard pressed to absolve self from luck
luster performance blame.

• Constituencies Development Fund Act of 2003.
• Accessed
on Thursday 16th October 2008.

Copyright© 2008 by Mwalili Samuel Chaku