Counties lack transparency in budgeting process, says report

Former Finance ministers Ukur Yatani (left) and Amos Kimunya share a light moment at Parliament in Nairobi on April 7, 2022, before the former presented his final 2022/2023 Budget. [File, Standard]

Many counties lack transparency in the process of preparing their budgets, according to a new report.

County Budget Transparency Survey (CBTS), a report by International Budget Partnership-Kenya (IBP Kenya), flagged Kajiado, Isiolo, Migori, and Wajir as counties that denied the public prerequisite documents for the preparation of budgets in 2022.

The four counties as those that failed to publish key budget documents for public scrutiny in 2022, hence denying the public the right to give their informed input in the preparation of budgets.

The report was released last week by IBP Kenya, an international nonprofit organization involved in the promotion of more responsible, effective, and equitable management of public money. The organization partners with civil society, community organizers, governments, and budget analysts, generate data, advocate for reform, and build the skills and knowledge of people on budget making.

The report came as the national and county governments prepare their respective budgets for the 2023/2024 financial year.

In the report, 19 counties did not publish at least one key budget document previously published in CBTS 2021.

Three documents 

The report further reveals that only 22 counties provided some information in at least one key budget document of the three documents that were evaluated for information on public participation.

The report comes at a time when counties are engaged in the public participation process for the 2023/2024 budgets, with most of the devolved units failing to provide draft Financial Bills.

“We are being invited to public participation without the draft Finance Bill of FY 23/24, as usual, to curtail public participation. If the national government can avail the Finance Bill, why are counties not facilitating transparent public participation?” said lawyer Philip Opiyo.

However, the findings of the report released on May 29, 2023, show a general improvement in most counties as far as budget-making is concerned.

Jumuia ya Kaunti za Pwani recorded the highest improvement, from 23 out of 100 points, in CBTS 2021 to 52 out of 100 in CBTS 2022.

“This progress is driven by improvements in the budget transparency scores across all the six counties in the bloc,” reads the report.

Roles and responsibilities

Mr Abraham Rugo, the International Budget Partnership’s Country Manager, noted a growing awareness among citizens of their roles and responsibilities in the budget-making process.

“They are better versed in how governments raise, allocate and spend public resources, and there is more demand for transparent, equitable, and accountable budgeting systems,” Rugo said while releasing the report.

The report also noted that the level of information provided in CBTS 2022 is 41 out of 100 points, an improvement from 35 out of 100 points in CBTS 2021.

It also noted that publication improved in the CBTS 2022 to 31 per cent from 23 per cent in CBTS 2021, which means about a third of expected reports were published.

However, despite the gains, only eight counties published all four quarterly implementation reports required in a financial year, indicating that there is still more work to be done in opening up reporting on budget execution.

It further noted that, in four thematic areas, including information on priorities, revenue, capital projects, and public participation, counties recorded higher scores in CBTS 2022 compared to CBTS 2021.

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