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Yatani: First spend what you’ve got then ask for more

By Roselyne Obala | January 15th 2021 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani at a past briefing. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The National Treasury has admitted it is two months behind in releasing county funds.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani said the government had released Sh133 billion to county governments so far this financial year. He said of the transfers, Sh120.2 billion was the equitable share while conditional grants was Sh13 billion.

Responding to governors who had warned that services at the counties were grinding to halt after the Treasury failed to disburse funds for four months, Yatani said it was only two months that the Treasury had not released the funds. He said this was due to the adverse effects of coronavirus that had hurt revenue collection.

Even then, Yatani said as at January 13, counties had Sh34.6 billion as balances at the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK).

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“I appeal to the county governments to make full use of these funds in the meantime, as further disbursements from the exchequer are made in due course,” Yatani said.

The CS expressed optimism that things will turn around with the reopening of the economy and reversal of the Covid-19 tax relief measures.

He said the government expects revenue collection to improve and “would prioritise disbursements to county governments with a view to clearing the arrears”.

Senators and governors had faulted the delay saying if the situation was not addressed urgently, services would grind to a halt.

Former Senate Devolution committee chairman John Kinyua faulted the government for the delayed disbursement, citing misplaced priorities.

“Unless there is a bigger scheme to kill devolution, at least Treasury would have released recurrent funds to counties,” Senator Kinyua said.

“When we argue that Covid-19 pandemic cannot stop BBI, we should also say that despite the country being broke, counties must get funds,” said the Laikipia senator.

Former Senate Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki said the situation pointed to devolution on its deathbed.

“Yet devolution is the only assurance of a stable and equitable Kenya, subject to ending the wanton theft of funds that is going on in almost all counties,” said Kithure, the Tharaka/Nithi senator.

Senate Health Committee Chair Michael Mbito said they will summon both parties at the end of the month when they resume Parliamentary activities.

Blame game

“We are receiving a lot of complaints. It’s blame game from both sides. My committee will summon them at the end of the month to get the true picture,” said Senator Mbito.

On Monday, Council of Governors Chair Wycliffe Oparanya wrote to Yatani and copied Speakers Justin Muturi (National Assembly) and Ken Lusaka (Senate) and Controller of Budgets Margaret Nyakang’o, lamenting over the matter.

“The delay in disbursement of these funds has negatively affected lives of county governments’ civil servants and service delivery,” Oparanya said.

He said counties had only received Sh94.7 billion this financial year.

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