Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga was on Thursday taken to task over persistent failure to meet budget targets and poor revenue collection.
Senate County Public Accounts Committee chairperson Moses Kajwang (Homa Bay) asked the governor to explain why in 2016/2017, the county collected Sh643 million against a target of Sh1.1 billion and in 2017/2018, the collection was Sh760 million against set target of Sh1 billion.
Mr Kajwang expressed concern that in 2018/2019, the county collected Sh837 million against a target of Sh1 billion and in 2019/2020, it only collected Sh656 million against a target of Sh1 billion.
“A trend analysis on revenue collections for the past four years between 2016/2017 and 2019/2020 revealed persistent failure to meet budget targets and poor performance. The shortfall and decline in revenue collection may be indications of revenue leakages and inefficient revenue collection system,” he said.
Mr Kahiga told the committee that the county had revised its revenue collection target to Sh700 million, terming the Sh4.6 billion basis set by the Commission on Revenue Allocation untenable because even getting Sh1 billion was a huge challenge.
The governor said at the height of Covid-19 pandemic, most businesses were operating at a minimum while others were shut down, severely affecting revenue streams such as transport sector while bars were closed and markets were at minimal operation.
He said his government had to consider the well-being of the residents since they can focus more on revenue collection to an extent that locals are burdened with taxation, which may achieve revenue targets but make the administration unpopular.
“Even as county governments maximise on revenue collection, they also have to consider the wellbeing of its residents. It does not make sense for a county to go to any length to get revenue and leave its people suffering; any governor who does that will definitely become unpopular,” said Kahiga.
The governor was also at pains to explain why the county was spending Sh3.6 billion annually on salaries and emoluments which was 52 per cent of the revenue totalling 6.7 billion.
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Kajwang also said the high wage bill was an indication that most of the county’s resources were spent on staff salaries at the expense of development projects, thus impacting negatively on service delivery with the expenditure exceeding the threshold of 35 per cent prescribed by Public Finance Management regulations.
Kahiga attributed the increased personal emoluments to the fact that Nyeri County was formerly the provincial headquarters and thus inherited most of the devolved officers from the national government and most of them were in the higher grades.
“The county inherited all staff from defunct local authorities like Nyeri Municipal Council, Karatina Municipal Council, Othaya Town Council and Nyeri County Council, though not all of the inherited staff had skills to assist the county deliver its mandate...,” he said.
Kahiga said counties had just received their allocation for November 2022, saying the delay in disbursing the funds affected delivery of services.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargey, Busia Senator Okiya Omtata, Tharaka Nithi Senator Mwenda Gataya, Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dullo, Nyandarua Senator John Methu and Nominated Senator Mariam Omar also grilled the Nyeri governor.