County executives and Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) doubled the money they spent on travelling, taking away funds from critical services such as healthcare, and stalling development.
Despite the huge cash spent on high-end hotels, travel tickets and allowances, county officials including governors have little to show for being in office.
This is as development projects stall, hospitals go without medicines, with key staff going without salaries or dismissed without regard to the law as revenue collections stagnate.
The 47 counties spent a combined Sh14.88 billion on domestic and foreign travel over the nine months to March 31, 2019.
This is an increase of over 112 per cent of the Sh7 billion spent over a similar period in the previous financial year according to a new report by the office of the Controller of Budget (COB).
COB said most counties flout the Public Finance Management (PFM) laws in their spending patterns that prioritise non-essentials at the expense of critical services and development projects.
“Counties spent Sh14.88 billion on domestic and foreign travel during the reporting period, which accounted for 6.5 per cent of the total expenditure for the period. Expenditure on travel increased by 112.3 per cent from Sh7.01 billion incurred in a similar period of 2017/18 financial year,” said the COB report.
“The high expenditure on travel may lead to reduced spending on key development programmes. Article 201 of the Constitution requires that public money is used in a prudent and responsible way.”
The report showed that Kisii County incurred the highest expenditure on domestic and foreign travel at Sh764.08 million, followed by Garissa (653.79 million) and Nairobi (Sh629.28 million).
COB wants counties to cut expenditure on non-essentials such as travelling to free up funds for implementation of key development projects.
In addition to the heavy spending on travel and allowances, retaining bloated workforces saw more than half of the expenditure by the counties go to payment of salaries.
This contravenes the PFM laws that cap spending on salaries at 35 per cent of a county’s expenditure. Counties spent Sh120 billion on salaries, translating to 52 per cent of the total expenditure of Sh230 billion over the nine months.
This meant that for every Sh2 that the devolved entities spent, one was on paying salaries. On average, the counties spent 20 per cent of their budgets on development against the required 30 per cent.
Of the 47 counties, only seven spent 30 percent or more on development with Marsabit committing 39 per cent. Siaya had the lowest development spend of five per cent.