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Delayed funding, graft cartels blamed for devolution mishaps

By Josphat Thiongó | August 18th 2021

Kisii County Governor James Ongwae. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Delayed funding by the exchequer and wanton graft are the biggest impediments to devolution eight years after its implementation, governors have said.

Speaking on the status of devolution in radio and TV interviews, Governors James Ongwae (Kisii) and Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) said delayed disbursement of funds by Treasury led to accrued pending bills and stalled projects.

Treasury estimates that counties have Sh100 billion pending bills owed to contractors and suppliers. Mr Ongwae spoke on Spice FM and said under-funding by the national government had affected devolution. He said counties receive approximately Sh350 billion annually, yet the national budget is more than Sh2 trillion.

In the current budget of Sh3.6 trillion, counties will get Sh409 billion, with Sh370 billion as equitable share of revenue raised nationally.

“Funding to counties also comes late, leading to delay in payment of contractors and suppliers. For the 2020/2021 financial year, for instance, the government released funds for the last three months in the last 10 days of the fiscal year,” said Ongwae.

“In the first one year, we were dealing with institutionalisation. When I assumed office, for instance, there were no offices, no governance structures and no book to read from on how to operate the county government. This also delayed implementation of the same,” he added.

He said lack of a law to ensure funds are disbursed on time by the Treasury, as well as failure by the national government to devolve all functions, has affected devolution.

The Treasury agreed with governors to release the monthly tranche on or before the 15th but this has not happened, especially during the Covid-19 period, where Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani blamed the situation on low revenue collection.

Prof Kibwana said graft in the national and county governments had adversely affected devolution. He said cartels had denied counties revenue, which ultimately affects service delivery. “So far, only a few notable ministers have been charged with graft. The graft containment activities are also not as rigorous at the national level as they are at the county level, raising questions whether there is weaponisation of anti-graft activities,” said Kibwana on Citizen TV.

“The solution is to do away with negative ethnicity, graft, tame cartels then we’d have even more resources for devolution. We should definitely deal with corruption, but within the law, to free our resources and channel them back to devolution,” he added.

The governor noted that at times funds released were inadequate, only enabling them to pay salaries and recurrent expenditure. “At times we do not get the money for at least three months. Cash flow problems, especially now with the Covid-19 pandemic, have also led to delay in payment of suppliers,” Kibwana said.

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