Controller of Budget deals a blow to MCA's bid for ward funds

Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo at the Nakuru High court. [Photo by Kipsang Joseph/Standard]

Members of county assemblies have been dealt a major blow in their quest to have a ward development fund after the kitty was ruled unprocedural.

In a circular sent to county governments, Controller of Budget (CoB) Agnes Odhiambo slammed the door on the proposal to have the funds.

MCAs have been pushing their respective county governments to establish ward development funds, saying they would help spur development.

The ward representatives have been seeking to have the kitty in an arrangement similar to the National Government Constituency Development Fund currently at the disposal of members of Parliament.

Odhiambo's circular dated January 19 and copied to all 47 governors, county executive committee members for finance, and clerks of county assemblies, says most of the counties seeking to establish the ward development fund do not meet Regulations 197 of the Public Finance Management Act, 2012.

She further says the funds to support the kitty would be dependent on annual financing from the county exchequer, which is not envisaged in Regulation 197(1)(e).

“Therefore, ward projects should be budgeted under development budgets and implemented by the respective departments. The county assemblies should in turn play their role in accordance with Article 185(3) of the Constitution,” Ms Odiambo tells governors.

Development budgets

The clarification by the Controller of Budget is no doubt as a major blow to governors and MCAs who were seen to be seeking to use the fund to endear themselves to local residents through various development projects.

Some counties have already created the fund. They include Nairobi, Nakuru, Meru, Machakos, Nandi, Embu, Kiambu, and Laikipia.

After assuming office last year, Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu announced that each ward would start receiving Sh30 million for development courtesy of the kitty.

Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata has drafted a Bill seeking to introduce a Sh21.8 billion development fund for all wards.

If the Ward Equalisation Fund Bill is passed into law, each of the 1,450 wards would receive Sh15 million annually.

The chairman of the Council of Governors, Turkana’s Josphat Nanok, promised that he would adhere to the advisory.

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya asked MCAs to focus on their oversight role and stop wasting time pushing for the fund, while Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati turned down MCAs' request to have the ward fund created.

In Nyanza region, Siaya and Homa Bay counties were still in the process of constituting a bill on the ward development fund while Kisumu is the only county with an active ward development fund law.

The bill was passed in 2014 but opened a war front between MCAs and the executive as claims of embezzlement of funds dedicated to it rocked the first term of the county government.