What are local authorities? (Describe local authorities in Kenya.)

  • Local authorities are a system of local level administration in Kenya, which is separate from central government.
  • They constitute local government, which is run by residents in their particular localities.
  • Local government is carried out by elected local councilors.
  • All local Authorities operate under the Minister for Local Government.

Explain how local authorities were established in Kenya.

  • In Kenya, local authorities were introduced in 1903, following the enactment of the Township Ordinance, which created Nairobi and Mombasa townships.
  • However, in the colonial era, the British separated the European local authorities from the African local authorities known as The Local Native Council from 1924.
  • In 1950, these councils were elevated to African District Councils.
  • At Independence in 1963, the local authorities were unified.

Outline the types of local authorities in Kenya. (Into what types are local authorities in Kenya classified/divided?)

Local authorities in Kenya include:

  • City councils;
  • municipal councils;
  • Urban councils;
  • County councils;
  • Town councils;
  • Area councils.

Analyse/describe the system of local government in Kenya.

  • Each council has elected and, in some cases, nominated councilors.
  • Nominated councilors are appointed by the Minister for Local Government.
  • Elected councilors are voted into office by residents within their respective localities. Also, in the councils, are District Commissioners, i.e. exe Officio members of the local authorities in their districts. Ø Local people are allowed to participate in matters affecting them in their daily life, such as health, Education and Agriculture.
  • Local authorities employ qualified staff for higher and technical posts, which is important for effective administration and provision of services.
  • The Local Government Staff Commission appoints middle-level and senior staff.

Identify/outline the most important officers in a local authority. (Name the officers that run/operate a local authority.)

The most important officers in a local authority include:

  • The Clerk;
  • The Treasurer;
  • The Engineer;
  • The Medical Officer of Health.


 Name three cities in Kenya today.

Today, Kenya has three cities. These are:

  • Nairobi,
  • Mombasa,

Describe city and municipal councils in Kenya. (Explain how government activities are carried out/exercised in city and municipal councils in Kenya.)

  • Cities are run in the same manner as the municipalities, except that services offered at the City level are at a larger scale due to higher population.
  • Like the municipalities, the city is headed by a Mayor.
  • Every municipality in Kenya has a Municipal Council.
  • Each council consists of elected and nominated councilors. The elected councilors represent the electoral areas (wards), into which each council is divided. The nominated councilors, who are appointed by the Minister for Local Government, work hand in hand with the elected councilors.
  • A mayor is elected from among the councilors during the first Council meeting after each General Election. The Mayor heads the council and presides over all Council meetings as chairman and as chief representative of the council. The Mayor is legible for re-election.
  • The Mayor is assisted by the Deputy Mayor, who is elected in the same manner.
  • All elected councilors in each council hold office for a five-year term and can stand for re-election.

Describe/analyse county and town councils in Kenya.

  • Normally, Counties are rural areas while towns or townships are urban.
  • A county or township is an area that does not merit municipal status due to its small size.
  • Townships may exist within counties.
  • Each county or township has a County or Township council made up of elected and nominated councilors, headed by a chairman and deputy chairman, both of who are elected from among the councilors during the first Council meeting.


Describe urban and area councils in Kenya. Explain how government functions/runs in urban and area councils.

  • They are found in every County division.
  • They consist of a chairman, vice chairman and elected and nominated councilors.

Explain the relationship between local authorities and central government in Kenya.

  • Local and central government are linked through the Minister for Local Government.
  • The Minister for Local Government controls the activities of all local authorities throughout the country.
  • Central government spells out directives and policy guidelines to local authorities through the Ministry for Local Government.
  • Through the Local Government Act, the Ministry is mandated to ensure that all local authorities function and operate within the overall national policy as spelt out by Central Government.

Explain how central government influences/controls local authorities in Kenya. (Describe the powers of the Minister for local government over local authorities in Kenya.)

  • General supervision of the activities of the local authorities to ensure that they follow the regulations of the central government.
  • Streamlining local authorities’ affairs.
  • Re-organization of local authorities through upgrading, redefining their boundaries and amalgamation of two or more local authorities.
  • Enquiry, suspension and dissolution of a local authority.
  • Approval or disapproval of decisions made by local authorities.
  • Appointment of senior officers of the councils, E.G the Town Clerk and the Auditor General. This, he does in conjunction with the Public Service Commission.
  • Approval or disapproval of the by laws made by local authorities.
  • Receiving and assessing annual reports on the performance of local authorities.
  • Financial control over local authorities by withdrawing grants, appointing inspectors to audit the local authorities and either approving or disapproving levies, rates, taxes and rent increases.

Outline the services that are offered by local authorities in Kenya.

  • Education;
  • Health;
  • Water;
  • Housing;
  • Sewerage services, depending on their respective capacity.

Explain the functions of local authorities in Kenya.

  • They link the people with the central government through their elected leaders and councilors.
  • They enhance participatory democracy in their respective localities and afford their people an opportunity to exercise their democratic rights and manage their public affairs and government. For instance, Councilors, Mayors, Chairmen and other leaders are elected democratically.
  • They mobilize local resources and energies in carrying out projects within their areas, E.G construction of roads, bridges, etc.
  • They facilitate education through construction and maintenance of schools.
  • They assist the Central Government in providing social services to the people over a specified locality. They perform specialist duties and are empowered to raise revenue and spend money within certain limitations in line with the Local Government Act, CAP.265 of the laws of Kenya.
  • They provide job and training opportunities for people within their jurisdiction. Thus people get employed in the local authorities as councilors, administrators, clerks, labourers, etc.
  • They provide recreation services, which include provision of recreation grounds and allotment such as swimming-pools, sports-grounds, parks, museums, art galleries and public film shows.
  • They provide and maintain sanitation and drainage facilities and services.
  • They are responsible for housing in their areas of jurisdiction.
  • They provide and maintain the road network in their areas where as the central government develops major roads.
  • They provide entertainment and leisure facilities such as stadia, social halls and parks.
  • They regulate commercial activities within their area of jurisdiction.
  • They provide water and sewerage services and collect garbage.
  • They make the by laws that regulate the behavior of those living within their jurisdiction.
  • They provide employment for many people.
  • They control pollution within their areas of jurisdiction.
  • They provide building regulations and protection.
  • They render essential public services to people within their jurisdiction.
  • They supplement government efforts in the provision of health services.

Explain how local authorities supplement government efforts in the provision of health services. 

  • They construct and maintain health centres e.g. maternal and child-welfare clinics, Dispensaries, Smoke-controls, etc.
  • They provide mortuary and ambulance services.

Explain the responsibilities of local authorities for housing in their areas of jurisdiction. (Explain how local authorities ensure proper housing in their areas of jurisdiction.)

  • Clearing slum dwellings.
  • Building and managing new houses as well as improving older ones.
  • Water supplies.
  • Sewerage and rubbish disposal.
  • Street-lighting and cleaning.

Explain the responsibilities of local authorities in provision and maintenance of sanitation, drainage facilities and services.

  • They ensure that public toilettes are kept clean.
  • They dispose off dead animals.
  • They burry destitute persons who die within their jurisdiction and have no relatives to claim and burry them.
  • They ensure cleanliness in shops and offices.
  • They collect and dispose off refuse.
  • They provide Ambulance services and carry out vaccination and immunization programmes.

Explain how local authorities regulate commercial activities within their area of jurisdiction. 

  • Building, provision of and maintaining markets and abattoirs.
  • Performance of regulatory services such as consumer protection and provision of tradelicenses and permits.
  • Imposition of Cess and other levies on crops such as coffee and tea.

Explain the role/responsibilities of local authorities in provision of building regulations and protection.

  • Issuing and approval of plans for various types of buildings.
  • Safe-guarding buildings and other property, particularly by fire control services.
  • Provision of municipal police.

Identify the essential public services that are rendered by local authorities to people within their jurisdiction. 

  • Maintaining public areas E.G squares and gardens.
  • Provision of educational facilities i.e. preschool, nursery and primary schooling as well as special schools for handicapped children.
  • Running libraries, which are closely associated with education.
  • Running personal social services such as Day-care centres, social clubs, meal services and hostels.
  • Establishment of children’s homes to care for children deprived of a normal home-life. Ø Provision of homes for destitute and the aged.
  • Looking into the welfare of the disabled people within their locality.
  • Construction and maintenance of roads and bridges.
  • Provision of land for cemeteries and for cremation.

Assess/discuss the independence of local authorities in Kenya.

  • Parliament controls the functions of local authorities through the statutory powers conferred on them through the Public General acts.
  • Local authorities are permitted to pass by-laws to effect their work. They work closely with Central Government departments in this regard.
  • The by-laws passed by local authorities regulate particular aspects of public life in a given area, e.g. there can be a by-law prohibiting the dumping of garbage in a certain area.
  • All by-laws must be approved by the Minister for Local Government.

Sources of revenue for local authorities in Kenya

Explain how local authorities are financed. (Describe the sources of revenue for local authorities in Kenya.)

Local authorities in Kenya are financed or funded in the following ways:

  • They receive grants from the central government.
  • They collect rent from residential buildings, market stalls, stadia and those who erect bill boards within their areas of jurisdiction.
  • They receive fees from the residents for services such as markets, slaughterhouses; refuse collection, house rents, rates on land, service charges, trade licenses, Cess, Fines, water and sewerage disposal.
  • They give or withdraw business licenses.
  • Fines from offenders.
  • Rates from property owners
  • Loans and donations from donor agencies.
  • Sale of property E.G land and buildings.
  • Profits from investments.

Explain the factors that undermine the performance of local authorities in Kenya.

  • Some local authorities are too small to operate effectively.
  • The high population in some local authorities strains the available resources.
  • Many of the local authorities lack a financial base to provide services.
  • Inefficient revenue collection systems reduce their performance.
  • Many individuals and organizations evade payment of the required levies or fees.
  • Misappropriation of funds and corruption bewilder and undermine efficiency in most local authorities.
  • Conflicts between the councilors and the chief officers greatly frustrate operations.
  • Too much control by the central government and politicians, which hinders their independence and efficiency.
  • Most local authorities lack qualified staff in administration and financial management due to poor terms of service and remuneration.
  • Over employment of staff, which strains the finances of some local authorities.
  • Illiterate councilors, who run down some local authorities.
  • Other factors such as poor infrastructure, vandalism, increased crime and traffic congestion.


The Central Government controls all operations of local authorities and can intervene when necessary to protect the interests of the citizens and to ensure that they operate in line with government policies.

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