The Treasury has released Sh18.2 billion to 18 counties to clear pending bills. Another 12 counties that had cleared their pending bills got Sh7.2 billion. This was after the Council of Governors accused the Treasury of acting unconstitutionally by withholding funds. The Treasury responded by saying they were acting that way after assessing financial discipline among the devolved units. It is unfortunate that two arms of government had to disagree in public over utilisation of public resources.
Kenyans expect honest and prudent use of their taxes, more so in counties because devolution was introduced to accelerate development at the grassroots. Hitherto marginalised regions hope to benefit directly from devolution and solve debilitating poverty, basic health challenges and poor infrastructure through devolution. That is why they voted for the Constitution during the 2010 referendum. Thus, withholding or misusing funds sent to the counties is tantamount to killing that dream.
The Treasury and the governors must always remember that devolution monies are meant to ensure development and uplift residents’ living standards. They are not for creating fiefdoms or pampering the elected 47 governors and their cronies. It is a huge responsibility that should come with humility and always seeking to prioritise development needs in each county. It is unfortunate that several governors and county officials are facing corruption charges in our courts.
In the same vein, delay to release county funds has killed hundreds of genuine businesses whose owners supplied counties with either goods or services even as lenders go for them to repay loans. This is unacceptable even as the country rues lack of jobs or opportunities for graduates coming through our education system. With the renewed fight against corruption, we expect that county officials to think twice before pilfering public resources. Those found guilty should be made to pay, their property should be attached and stolen monies recovered. The message should be clear that nobody will get away with stealing public resources. Devolution can work if public resources are spent prudently.