The governors’ offices of Laikipia, Nairobi City and Lamu counties were the most expensive to run last year, an analysis has shown.
Data from the office of the Controller of Budget shows the three counties spent the biggest proportions of their total expenditures running their governors’ office.
The breakdown for recurrent expenditure—money used to pay salaries in the governor’s office, buy tea, entertain guests and carry out county administration functions, among others, shows that Laikipia County spent Sh2.2 billion, representing 48 per cent of the total expenditure on county administration.
This made Laikipia County, under the leadership of former Governor Joshua Irungu, the top spender in terms of the share of recurrent expenditure as a fraction of its total expenditure in 2016/17.
The office of the governor of Nairobi City, which was under Dr Evans Kidero at the time, came second after spending Sh5 billion, representing 20 per cent of its total expenditure last year.
The analysis is limited to recurrent expenditure because this is what is used to run operations and is a good measure for which is the most expensive county government.
Laikipia and Nairobi were followed by Homa Bay and Trans Nzoia counties, which spent 11 per cent of their total expenditure on the offices of their governors.
Kisumu County and Tana River came fifth and sixth, respectively, after their governors spent 10 per cent of their total expenditure on running their offices.
Other top spending offices of governors include Samburu (nine per cent), Kirinyaga (eight per cent) and Bomet (seven per cent), which completed the list of the top 10 most expensive offices of governors.
One of the main arguments for devolution was that Nairobi had lost touch with the rest of the country, especially in the furthest points in terms of what they actually needed.
So when devolution came, county governments were seen as better placed at ensuring the national resources benefited as many people as possible at the grassroots.
One way of doing this was to ensure as much money as possible is channelled towards development expenditure and this required that counties put as little money as possible in administration to release the rest of the funds to do service delivery.
From the data analysis, the office of the governor of Turkana emerged as the least spender after only one per cent of its total expenditure went towards funding recurrent expenditure for the governor’s office. The second best county is Nyeri (two per cent), followed by Kakamega (three per cent) and Mombasa (four per cent). Makueni, Uasin Gishu, Kericho, Mandera, Kilifi and Murang’a complete the list of 10 least spenders on the offices of governors.
But to get the full picture of the most expensive county governments, all the recurrent expenditure for the county executives has to be factored in.
If all the expenditure by county executives is collated, Tharaka Nithi, Kisumu and Lamu counties became the most expensive to run last year, having spent the biggest share of their revenues on their executives.
An analysis of official spending data for the financial year 2016/17 by the Sunday Standard shows the executives of these devolved governments gobbled up the biggest proportion of their revenues on recurrent expenditure in what left them with the least proportions funding new projects.
The data from the office of the Controller of Budget shows Tharaka Nithi under Samuel Ragwa and Kisumu under Jack Ranguma each had 81 per cent of their total expenditure running operations for their executive, which includes the office of the governor and the county ministers.
To put it into perspective, Tharaka Nithi spent Sh2.7 billion last year. From this amount Sh2.2 billion was spent as recurrent expenditure.
This left it with just Sh500 million being shared by the County Assembly and development projects.
These were followed by Lamu County, which spent 79 per cent of all its total expenditure last year on recurrent expenditure by the county executive.
The fourth most expensive county to run was Vihiga which spent 74 per cent of its total expenditure to pay running bills by its executives.
There are at least 13 counties where executives used up at least Sh7 of every Sh10 spent.
The other counties that made it to the top 10 list of the most expensive to run included Uasin Gishu, Kiambu, Homa Bay, Nyamira and Kajiado, all of whom spent between 72 per cent and 73 per cent of their money on recurrent expenditure for executive dockets.
Ironically, counties such as Nairobi that had the biggest cumulative expenditure used a lesser share of their total expenditure as a percentage of their revenues on running its executive, despite having the biggest wage bill.
On the flipside, Mandera was the most efficient county after spending only 37 per cent of its expenditure on its county executive, leaving it with the biggest share of its revenues to fund new projects.
The second cheapest county to run was Turkana (39 per cent), followed by Marsabit, Wajir and Kakamega which each allocated about 47 per cent of their total expenditure on their county executive. The other counties that did well in terms of allocating less amounts to fund their county executives include Makueni (48 per cent), Kilifi (48 per cent), Tana River 49 per cent and Murang’a (55 per cent).
The new county governments are now preparing their first budgets, which will define their spending habits.
One of the biggest contributors to the high recurrent expenditures is their inability to control their wage bills.
The county executive mainly involves the office of the governor, their ministers and employees working in various departments.
Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo identifies high expenditure on personnel emoluments, under-performance in revenue collection, failure by the National Treasury to disburse the equitable share as some of the hindering effective budget execution by county governments.
Ms Odhiambo also raises an alarm over the high levels of pending bills, which stood at Sh35.84 billion as at the end of the financial year, IFMIS connectivity challenges that caused delays in processing of financial transactions and late submission of financial reports by county treasuries that had affected budget implementation.
The Controller of Budget recommended that the County Public Service Boards (CPSB) ensure the wage bill does not exceed 35 per cent of their total revenue.
“County Treasuries should also develop and implement strategies to mobilise local revenue collection, while the National Treasury should comply with the CRA 2016 Disbursement Schedule in the disbursement of the equitable share revenue raised nationally,” the report says.
“Further, County Governments should ensure effective management of pending bills by aligning procurement plans to cash flow plans and the IFMIS Directorate should address IFMIS connectivity challenges experienced by most counties in FY 2016/17.”