Counties to formulate plan on pending bills

Stephen Sang (Nandi), Mutahi Kahiga (Nyeri) and Muthomi Njuki (haraka Nithi) during the Governors and deputy Governors' induction at Pride Inn hotel in Mombasa County on Thursday 15th September 2022. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

All the 47 county governments will audit pending bills, which will be authenticated by the Office of the Auditor General and the Controller of Budget before they are paid.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua yesterday said counties, AG, and CoB will develop an action plan on how the debts would be paid. Prior to payment, an audit of the services rendered is required, according to the DP, who is also the chairman of the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council (IBEC).

He said nonpayment for services by the county governments had tied down capital for small-scale traders.

The DP addressed governors and deputy governors in Mombasa where they are meeting for a three-day induction.

A report released in March by CoB Margaret Nyakang’o showed the 47 counties had accumulated pending bills worth Sh107 billion. 

Governors further said the counties are cash-strapped as they had not received shareable revenue for July, August, and September. They pushed for an increase of the revenue to 35 per cent of the national budget. In this financial year, counties will get Sh370 billion as revenue accounting for 18.2 per cent.

After the swearing-in on Tuesday, President William Ruto promised to transfer all the functions devolved as per the Constitution and that will be followed by more funds.

Yesterday governors said although 80 per cent of health services are devolved, only 40 per cent of the national budget for health care services is sent to the counties.

They said all remaining functions still under the regional authorities and other government agencies should be devolved as promised by Ruto. “Health service is the biggest headache for governors because functions were devolved but funds remain in Nairobi,” said Council of Governors chief executive Mary Mwiti.

She said an increase in shareable revenue will guarantee the implementation of devolved functions.

Governors Simba Arati (Kisii), Mohamed Ali (Marsabit), Cecily Mbarire (Embu), and Julius Malombe (Kitui) said the cash-strapped counties are also grappling with the huge wage bill.

Arati said, “We are told to follow the law in laying off some people employed irregularly. In Kisii the wage bill is at 62 per cent of the budget. We can’t deliver anything with this kind of wage bill.”

Garissa Governor Nathif Jama said the wage bills in most counties were inherited from the now-defunct municipalities.

“Some county governments have been unable to remit statutory deductions because of the huge workforce,” said Jama.

Bungoma Governor Kenneth Lusaka said the counties should not be forced to absorb workers from the now-defunct administration structures.

Meanwhile, the governors also said it is still unclear whether chief officers whose contracts have not expired should be let go or continue to serve in the new dispensation.

Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga said some chief officers signed new contracts a year before the election and that the hands of the new governors are tied.

But former Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana said new governors should come in with a new set of county ministers and chief officers.

“The contracts of county executives and chief officers expire at the end of the term of a governor. Governors should not carry over the chief officers,” said Kibwana.

Kericho Governor Erick Mutai said it is time that the law was amended to end the monopoly that the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority enjoys in the supply of drugs to counties.