Development Projects as Mechanisms for Delivery of Public Services in Kenya


By Isaac Odhiambo Abuya

Homa Bay, Kenya



The provision of public services is an important role of governments in developing economies like Kenya. Citizens look to their governments to provide responsive, quality and timely services. The poor state of public services has sparked public reform initiatives in a number of developing countries including Kenya. For example in Kenya, public reforms like performance contracting were introduced as a result of Kenyans’ concern about the poor state of public services (Opiyo, 2006). Thus, the push for the provision and delivery of quality and timely public services has come to play a critical and envious role in public sector reforms in the country.

However, while the provision and delivery of public services has come to occupy a special place in the public sector reform architecture in Kenya, few Kenyans appreciate and understand the strategic role that (development) projects play in the production and delivery of these services. Abuya (2016) argues that development projects in Kenya have become the principal mechanisms through which governments deliver public services. Understanding this strategic role is important because few politicians and citizens appreciate the role that development projects play in the delivery of essential public services. We argue in this paper that most of the critical services that citizen care about, like mortorable roads, clean and safe rural and urban water, public education, security, electricity and a host of other services, are delivered through well designed development projects.

Importance of Public Services

Public services are services provided by government to citizens living within its jurisdiction, either directly through public sector agencies, or by financing provision of services through private organizations. Even where public services are publicly funded or privately financed, for social and political reasons, they are usually subjected to governmental regulations.

Public services are distinctive because they are characterized by claims of rights by citizens to services that have been authorized and funded through some democratic process (Moore, 1995). These services are called public services because governments have direct responsibility for them (Martin, 2004). However, this does not mean that private sector organizations cannot provide these services. But the ‘publicness’ of these services must remain distinct, whether they are delivered by private, government, or through government/ private sector partnerships (Haque,2001). Irrespective of who provides these services, these services are essentially delivered through projects.

To appreciate the critical role and importance of public services, we review Van de Walle and Scott (2001) conceptualization of public services. Van de Walle and Scott (2001) argue that one of the reasons why the provision of public services is critical for governments the world over, is because these services make governments to be visible to its citizens, since they (public services) often form the principal tangible link between the government and its citizens. This means that the government’s visibility can be illuminated through the quality of public services it provides to its citizens, and the responsiveness of these services.

Van de Walle and Scott (2001) propose a second reason for the criticality of public services. They argue that apart from the fact that public services provide tangible link between the government and the citizens, public services also carry and diffuse the values of the government in power and contribute to the bonding of the government and its citizens (Van de Walle and Scott (2001). The value of an existing government is seen in the type and quality of public services that it provides to its citizens. A government that cares about the welfare of its people provides quality and timely services, while a non responsive government may not care much about the quality and timeliness of the public services it provides (Makanyeza, Kwandayi, & Ikobe, 2013).


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About the Author

Isaac Odhiambo Abuya

Homa Bay, Kenya



Isaac Odhiambo Abuya
has over 10 years’ experience in designing, planning and implementing high impact development projects in Kenya. Before joining Kenya’s county government of Homa Bay in 2013 as the county’s Chief of Staff responsible for coordinating the executive office of the Governor and the county government’s development policies, Isaac served as World Vision Kenya’s Project Director, and was responsible for designing and implementation of a high impact social determinants of health project for vulnerable communities, families and children in Kenya. Isaac also coordinated the first multi-county USAID/ PEPFAR HIV and AIDS prevention and care project that targeted over 1 million youth in Kenya and Tanzania with behavioral change and care interventions.

Isaac provided high level project leadership in the roll out of voluntary medical male circumcision interventions in non-circumcising communities in Kenya, and served as one of the principal consultants to USAID’s effort in promoting voluntary medical male circumcision programming in the Royal Kingdom of Swaziland. He has provided technical support to a number of county governments and non-governmental organizations in Kenya on performance based management and contracting and currently serves as the national chairman of the Performance Management Association of Kenya.

Isaac Abuya holds a Bachelor of Education degree from Egerton University, Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology from Kenyatta University, Master of Arts degree in Project Planning and Management from the University of Nairobi, and is waiting to graduate with a PhD in Project Planning and Management from the University of Nairobi, with a specialization in Project Design, Planning and Implementation. He is pursuing a second PhD in Public Administration and Public Policy at Kisii University.

Mr. Abuya can be contacted at: [email protected]