The survey, which coincides with the second anniversary of the advent of devolution, was conducted by Infotrak Limited, a local pollster and research company.
The respondents, who took part in the survey conducted between last December and February, were asked to assess the performance of their counties in the delivery of services in the key devolved functions such as provision of health services, roads, transport and public works, early childhood education, agriculture and prevention of pollution.
Machakos emerged as the overall winner, with a total score of 61.5 per cent in the poll that surveyed some 28,000 people.
Coming a close second was Bungoma County, with a rating of 60.3 per cent, followed by Vihiga, in third place.
Others that ranked highly among the 47 counties were Bomet, Kwale, Elgeyo Marakwet, Taita-Taveta, Kisii, West Pokot, Kakamega, Kericho, Murang’a, Nandi, Uasin Gishu and Mombasa.
Overall, counties that had implemented highly visible projects scored highly. Conversely, counties where governors and members of county assemblies were involved in political wrangles, and where MCAs have been threatening to impeach governors, performed poorly.
In terms of regions, all the counties in Nyanza, with the exception of Kisii — did not feature in the top 15. Only early this week, Kisii Governor James Ongwae unveiled the county flag, seal and emblem, becoming the third governor to do so.
In central Kenya only Murang’a County features among the top 15 best performing counties. Some counties such as Kiambu and Embu, have been rocked by wrangles between MCAs and governors, while in Nyeri, the Governor, Mr Nderitu Gachagua, was away for treatment overseas for about three months.
Counties in Rift Valley (five), Western (three) and Coast (three) regions dominated the top ranking.
Interestingly, counties led by former top civil servants and individuals with experience in managing public programmes ranked highly in the survey. The Machakos Governor, Dr Alfred Mutua, was the government spokesman in the Kibaki administration, while Bungoma Governor Kenneth Lusaka served as a Permanent Secretary in the same government, while the Vihiga Governor, Mr Moses Akaranga, is a former a Cabinet minister.
The Kisii, Taita-Taveta, Kakamega and Mombasa governors also served in various capacities in previous governments, mostly as permanent secretaries, Cabinet or assistant ministers.
In terms of performance by sector, the survey ranked Bungoma County as the top performer in agriculture, followed by Vihiga and Kisii.
The other top performers were Busia, Machakos, Kakamega, Uasin Gishu, Murang’a, West Pokot Elgeyo Marakwet, Bomet, Nandi, Kericho Migori and Narok, in that order.
On this score, respondents were specifically asked to rank counties on whether their governments had made it easier for farmers to reach markets and sell their produce and on whether food had become more available.
On health services, Machakos was ranked the top performing county, followed by Bomet, Kisii, Kwale, Nyeri, Elgeyo Marakwet, Bungoma, Taita-Taveta, Kakamega, Uasin Gishu, Murang’a, West Pokot, Migori, Samburu and Kericho.
Respondents had been asked to state whether their county governments had made it easier for them to get services from public health institutions.
In education, the best performer was Bungoma, followed by Vihiga, Machakos, Busia, Kakamega, Taita, Mombasa, Kisii, West Pokot, Bomet, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Kwale, Kirinyaga, Homa Bay and Uasin Gishu.
Respondents were asked to score their counties on whether they had established enough nursery schools and child care facilities and whether their county governments had built new village polytechnics.
Machakos also emerged top in the transport services category, followed closely by Mombasa, Vihiga, Kisii, Kiambu, Nairobi, Bomet and Kericho, in that order.
Those who took part in the survey were asked to score the performance of their counties on the maintenance and construction of rural roads.