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Fact Checker: Wages, not health consume the bulk of county budgets

FINANCIAL STANDARD
By Frankline Sunday | July 30th 2019
Vihiga Governor Wilber Ottichilo addresses county staff at the county headquarters. He has claimed devolved functions such as health and agriculture are taking up the bulk of county allocations. [Eric Lungai, Standard]

How much do county governments spend on their health budgets?

Vihiga County Governor Wilber Ottichilo last week sought to defend the devolved units in the ongoing stalemate over the implementation of the 2019/2020 Division of Revenue Bill.

Over the week, both houses passed their own versions of the Bill, with Senators asking for Sh335 proposed by the Commission for Revenue Allocation (CRA) while MPs proposed sharing Sh316 billion.  

President Uhuru Kenyatta wadded into the fray, asking counties to take what is offered, something governors have not taken lightly.

“The president has his opinion, but we are looking at the law which says the allocation should be based on the latest audited accounts of the national revenue accounts and we are still using the 2014/2015 accounts even though the budget has increased,” said Vihiga Governor during a televised interview.

Mr Ottichilo further said devolved functions like health and agriculture are taking up the bulk of county allocations. “In all the counties, more than half of the money goes to health,” he said. This is, however, not accurate.

According to an analysis of data from the Controller of Budget, counties spend more than half of their allocated disbursements on salaries and remunerations.   

In the first nine months of the 2018/2019 financial year, for example, counties spent Sh120.5 billion (52 per cent) out of the Sh249 billion in exchequer issues on personnel emoluments.

Even as counties pay wages for State healthcare workers, much of the wage bill has been attributed to bloated administrations particularly county executive perks, with just 20 per cent spent on development activities over the same period. 

“This expenditure was an increase of 11.6 per cent from Sh108.04 billion incurred in a similar period of FY 2017/18 where the personnel expenditure translated to 58.8 per cent of the total expenditure,” explained the Controller of Budget in the latest report.

 “The Office noted with concern the increase in the wage bill, which is unsustainable and will crowd out spending on key development activities.”

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