Members of the 47 County Assemblies have spent a whopping Sh1.16 billion on sitting allowances in only six months of this financial year, more than what was spent in 2018/2019.
In the last fiscal year the counties spent Sh1.08 billion against the approved budget of Sh2.89 billion.
Latest County Governments Budget Implementation Review Report 2018/2019 released by the new Controller of Budget (CoB) Margaret Nyakang’o states: “This expenditure translates to 40 per cent of the approved MCAs sitting allowances budget and an increase from 38.9 per cent attained in similar period in the previous financial year”.
This means despite a warning to the counties to spend within their budget ceiling, there is still a high appetite for money and calls to curb non-essential expenditure have fallen on deaf ears.
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Data from the Controller of Budget shows a sharp rise in sitting allowance expense amid sustained push to effect financial austerity measures by the Treasury to free up cash for development projects.
The Report found out that county governments incurred an expenditure of Sh22.77 billion, representing an absorption rate of 11.6 per cent of cumulative annual development budget of Sh196.86 billion.
“This performance was a decline from an absorption rate of 13.2 per cent reported in a similar period in the 2017/18 period when development expenditure was Sh24.73 billion,” Nyakango said.
She advised the counties to prioritise implementation of development projects in order to improve the standards of living for their people, rather than have appetite for luxury or leisure allowances.
In the first half of the financial year 2018/19, the counties spent Sh143.27 billion, translating to an overall absorption rate of 29.5 per cent.
A total Sh120.50 billion was spent on recurrent expenditure, and Sh288.78 billion and Sh196.86 billion on development translating to an absorption rate of 11.6 percent as compared to 41.7 per cent of the annual budget on recurrent expenditure.
Unlike during the period under review, this financial year, the 47 county assemblies have tried to reduce their appetite for money, but still their expenditure and absorption rates went up.
Out of 47 counties, only Mombasa County Assembly did not report any expenditure on sitting allowance during the reporting period under review this first half financial year 2019/20.
But in Nairobi County Assembly, the expenditure was Sh38,867,400 against Sh102,398,400 budget shared among 124 MCAs, indicating an absorption rate of 38 per cent.
This means every MCA earned Sh313,447 with a monthly average of Sh52,241 during the review period.
Kisumu County Assembly spent Sh39,257,229, with an absorption rate of 50 per cent, as earnings for each of the 49 MCAs was Sh801,168. It means each pocketed Sh133,528 in allowances.
Kisumu’s financial year budget was Sh78,515,200 meaning its MCAs’ appetite for money was still high compared with Meru, Kisii, Homa Bay and Kakamega.
Meru spent Sh52,693,500 in the first half of the last financial. It was allocated Sh114,034,000, while Kisii’s budget was Sh118,868,000, but it spent Sh57,196,121 to pay sitting allowances to its 70 MCAs.
Kakamega spent Sh89,912,598 of its Sh133,286,400 budget, while Homa Bay MCAs’ budget was Sh110,760,000. They, however, shared Sh74,759,215 among the 61 MCAs, who earned Sh1,225,561 and an average monthly allowance of Sh204,260.
Narok had Sh63,813,760 and spent Sh22,318,400. Nyamira’s budget was Sh65,395,200, but utilised Sh9,598,294. The Nakuru budget was Sh103 million, while the MCAs expenditure was Sh38,846,512.
Nyakang’o noted that the county assemblies spent more money than the recommended ceiling of Sh124,800 by the Salaries and Remunerations Commission (SRC). SRC has set 32 sittings as the maximum payable to an MCA in a given month as per the Kenya gazette notice on allowances.
It says out of the 32 monthly sittings, 16 are in plenary sessions and the remainder are committee sittings.
According to Kisumu County Budget Committee Chair Steve Owiti, as per SRC, a chair of an assembly committee is supposed to earn Sh5,000 in sitting allowance per session and an ordinary member Sh3,000.
But two Kisumu MCAs - Victor Rodgers and Roy Samo - claimed the counties had been paying chair persons of committees an allowance of Sh5,000 even in meetings where they served as members.
Samo said for a member to qualify for payment of a sitting allowance, there must be evidence of attendance of the said meeting in the form of minutes, reports and attendance schedules.
In the past, some assemblies paid MCAs the maximum allowances they were entitled to without computing the actual sittings, according to the 2013/14/18 Auditor General reports.
Kisumu Senator Fred Outa claimed there was a likelihood that this was still happening in some county assemblies, going by the huge disparities in the expenditures.
“The MCAs, too, like the Executive, must be held to account for all monies disbursed to them,” said Outa.
The Budget Implementation Report was handed over by CoB to Kisumu County Finance Authorities yesterday as they prepared this year’s financial Budget Estimates to be tabled in the Assembly.
The latest Budget Implemented Review Report indicates that the MCAs’ expenditure on allowances was still very high and ought to be reviewed within the set targets.
Baringo County Assembly, for instance, spent Sh26,327,000 against the allocated Sh56,018,088 among its 46 MCAs, with an absorption rate of 47 per cent recorded.
This means, earnings per MCAs was 572,339 and average monthly allowance per MCA stood at Sh95,390 only during the first half financial year 2018/19.
Bomet MCAs spent Sh8,477,736 to pay 37 members against Sh10,882,900 budget with each earning about Sh229,128 and Sh38,188 on average.
Bungoma MCAs spent Sh33,425,600 against the budget of Sh95,596,800 shared by 61 MCAs, who also earned Sh547,961 and averagely pocketed Sh91,327 each.