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Rein in on lavish county expenditure

By The Standard | February 16th 2016

Ever since devolution kicked in three years ago, there have been fears that things could go wrong with the new units. These fears grew with the zealousness with which some of the devolved units were throwing money at what many would consider non-essential initiatives.

The Controller of Budget is once again raising the red flag; recurrent expenditure is taking a huge slice of the devolved funds. In the period between July and September 2015, salaries and allowances soaked up 56 per cent of the Sh56.48 billion drawn from the County Revenue Funds, up 4 per cent from the year before.

It was understandable that initially, the administrators would need capacity and offices from where they would carry out their duties.

Not anymore.

Regrettably, a few of the governors went for air-conditioned, mahogany-furnished office suites, top-of-the-range gas-guzzlers, mortgages, personnel costs, car grants, travel and other symbols of ostentation.

Essentially, county governments needed to provide the nucleus for national growth. That, therefore, called for prudence in the way funds were allocated by these authorities.

A few of the county managers had budgets that if implemented, could spur growth from the grassroots. After all, counties were to be units of revenue generation that would ultimately get weaned off financial support from the central government.

So therefore, unless the cake baked at the county level is big enough to allow for this kind of lavish spending, it will be foolhardy to expect miracles from the devolved units.

Many had romanticised the prospects offered by a devolved system of government; that the county governments would be an uplifting departure from the defunct local authorities best remembered for their inertia, rot and wasteful spending of public resources.

Regrettably, county governments are metamorphosing into centres for the show of power and might and uninhibited consumption of public funds.

That has to end, for counties still offer the greatest opportunity for equal development across the country.

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