Mt Kenya: Governors bank on tech to seal revenue loopholes

Construction of Kenol- Sagana - Marwa highway. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

Counties in the Mount Kenya region have prioritised health, agriculture and infrastructure in the 2023-24 financial year.

An analysis by the Financial Standard of the budgets of five select counties - Nyeri, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Kirinyaga and Muranga - shows the counties have set funding to boost the three key sectors.

Cumulatively, the total budgets for these counties is approximately Sh43.14 billion, with Meru presenting the highest budget at Sh11.8 billion followed by Murang'a at Sh10.7 billion.

The least budget is from Tharaka Nithi at Sh6.1 billion.

In Nyeri, Governor Mutahi Kahiga is working with a total budget of Sh8.04 billion for the financial year.

Nyeri Finance Executive Robert Thuo said 70 per cent of the budget will cater for recurrent expenditure and 30 per allocated to development projects.

"Out of the Sh7.9b total recurrent budget is Sh5.6b and development budget is Sh2.4b," he said.

He added that the county will collect Sh800 million as own source revenue and Sh686 million from loans and grants while Sh6.5b will be equitable share from the government.

"Nyeri County has 36 revenue streams that includes land rate, single business permits, parking fees, building permits and fee from billboards and advertisements," he said.

Meru governor Kawira Mwangaza and Tharaka Nithi's Muthomi Njuki are prioritising the same sectors of health and agriculture.

Development agenda

Governor Mwangaza has a Sh11.8 billion to actualise her development agenda, while Governor Njuki has set out a Sh6.1b budget for various projects.

Both governors are also tightening revenue collections, by sealing loopholes in the system using technology.

"We are going cashless completely," Mwangaza said.

She said she is fast-tracking provision of water and health services, including expansion of wards and theatres

Njuki has also employed technology to seal revenue loopholes by installing CCTV cameras at all revenue collection points and open air markets.

"We are aiming to hit the target of Sh400million of own source revenue in this financial year," he said.

To achieve the target, the administration is eyeing additional revenue streams such as Airbnb establishments, borehole drilling services, hostels, rentals in urban areas, fees for tender forms and quantity survey services for public works and corporate distributors.

"In a bid to increase efficiency in our revenue collection we have employed modern technology, having digitised our systems, including automation of bus parks, hospital management system and others," Njuki said.

Murang'a County projects to collect Sh1.4 billion in local revenue.

In the fiscal year, the administration has emphasised investing in smart cities, milk and mango subsidies, ECDE porridge, health, and Murang'a Youth Service programmes.

Governor Irungu Kang'ata plans to increase the revenue through automation of services and sealing loopholes that have been used in looting.

Already, revenue at Murang'a Level Five Hospital has increased to Sh400,000 per day up from Sh80,000 following introduction of the automation service, according to the county ledaership.

"We have an ICT unit which is working on the automation exercise to ensure we achieve automation. Parking fees have doubled in the past and government revenue was ending in the wrong pockets," said Kang'ata.

The Mt Kenya counties are planning to collect an estimated Sh4 billion with the highest target set by Murang'a county at Sh 1.4 billion followed by Nyeri, which has set its target at Sh1 billion.

Revenue sources

Across the counties, the highest sources of revenues come from the hospital and health services fees collected with the funds making up close to 40 percent of each county's own source revenue.

According to the Controller of Budget's nine months implementation report for counties for 2022-23, Meru's highest revenue stream of Sh250.7 million was from health services, contributing 45 per cent of the total OSR collected during the reporting period.

Tharaka Nithi raised Sh78.05 million from hospital fees, which contributed 47 per cent of the total OSR collected.

In Nyeri, the reported revenue from the health sector was Sh336.32 million, but this amount was directly swept to the Health Services Fund as was not accounted as part of OSR.

[Reporting by Phares Mutembei, Boniface Gikandi, Amos Kiarie]