Counties splash billions on salaries, perks amid rising wage bill

47 counties spent a total of Sh139 billion on personnel emoluments. [iStockphoto]

County governments spent a majority of their budgets on salaries for the first nine months of the 2021/2022 financial year, making a mockery of efforts to reduce the public wage bill.

Data from the latest report from the office of the Controller of Budget indicates that the 47 counties received Sh289.6 billion in the first nine months of the 2021/2022 financial year, against budget estimates of Sh528.5 billion.

"This amount consisted of Sh216.3 billion as equitable share of revenue raised nationally, Sh46.2 billion cash balance from the 2020/2021 financial year and Sh27 billion raised from own sources," said Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang'o in her latest report.

Total recurrent expenditure stood at Sh212.8 billion, with development expenditure amounting to Sh44.3 billion in the period under review, an absorption rate of 63 per cent and 22 per cent respectively.    

However, Ms Nyakang'o has flagged the high wage bill alongside account managers' failure to adhere to public finance regulations as some of the challenges scuttling effective budget implementation.

According to the report, the 47 counties spent a total of Sh139 billion on personnel emoluments, translating into 54 per cent of the Sh256 billion spent in the first nine months of the 2021/2022 financial year.

"County governments processed Sh11.99 billion of wages through manual systems other than the prescribed Integrated Payroll Personnel Database (IPPD)," explained the Controller of Budget.

"During the period, there was weak accountability for the operations of County Established Funds as Fund Administrators failed to submit the quarterly financial and non-financial reports to the Controller of Budget, contrary to the requirement of Section 168 of the PFM Act, 2012."

Nairobi City County ranked top in the public wage bill, splashing Sh10.9 billion in personnel emoluments in the first nine months of the financial year.

Kiambu, Machakos, Kakamega, Kisumu and Nakuru counties similarly recorded high wage bills of Sh6 billion, Sh4.6 billion and Sh4 billion respectively.

Last year, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) published new allowance guidelines, cautioning that the country's wage bill now stands at 51 per cent of ordinary revenue, against a target of 35 per cent.

"The public service wage bill in Kenya has been growing over time from Sh558 billion in the 2013/2014 financial year to Sh827 billion in the 2019/2020 financial year within an environment of revenue and financial constraints," said SRC.

The commission said the trend is also attributed to the expansion of services to the public and higher pay given to employees.

Counties further spent a cumulative Sh1.5 billion on sitting allowances for county assembly members, translating into 58 per cent of the approved budget for sitting allowances.

Migori, Nyamira and Busia counties ranked top in sitting allowances to members of county assemblies, paying out a monthly allowance averaging Sh167,194, Sh120,052 and Sh114, 211 per member in the first nine months of the financial year.

Only three counties Kitui (53 per cent), Mombasa (51 per cent) and Marsabit (50 per cent) achieved above 50 per cent absorption on development expenditure.

A total of 19 other counties absorbed less than 20 per cent of their development expenditure, including Kiambu, Nairobi, Lamu, Vihiga, Migori, Siaya and Machakos.

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