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Recurrent expenditure took lion's share of county budgets

By Julius Chepkwony | June 18th 2021
Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang'o. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

County governments spent most of their budgets on personal emoluments in the first nine months of the last financial year.

This was at the expense of development, according to a new report by the Controller of Budget.

The report shows all the 47 counties spent a cumulative Sh172.93 billion on recurrent expenditure. This included money that went towards operations and maintenance. Only Sh48.45 billion went towards development projects in counties in the first nine months of 2020/2021 fiscal year.

The cumulative budgetary allocation for all the counties for the period under study was Sh500.77 billion. This comprised of Sh193.3 billion allocated to development expenditure and Sh307.47 billion to recurrent expenditure.

Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o also indicated that up to 25 counties spent just a little of what they had been allocated on development projects. The counties, which utilised just about 25 per cent of their development budgets include Nairobi, Kisumu, Lamu, Baringo, Nakuru, Samburu, Kilifi, Nyandarua and Vihiga.

Other counties that appear to have had little focus on development, according to the report, are Turkana, Meru, Narok, Busia, Kericho, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, West Pokot, Elgeyo Marakwet, Kirinyaga, Migori, Laikipia, Tana River, Machakos, Siaya and Isiolo.

But the report also indicates that delays by the National Treasury in disbursing the equitable share of the funds to counties may have affected the amount spent on each vote during the period under review.

“During the reporting period, county governments spent Sh48.45 billion on development activities, representing an absorption rate of 25.1 per cent of their cumulative annual development budget of Sh193.3 billion,” says the audit.

In Baringo County, for example, Sh2.8 billion went to recurrent expenditure while only Sh243 million was spent on development projects. The county’s approved withdrawal, from the County Revenue Fund, was Sh3.58 billion. The amount comprised Sh635.93 million set aside for development programmes and Sh2.95 billion for recurrent plans.

Nairobi was allowed to withdraw Sh8.05 billion, Sh79.13 million for development and Sh7.97 billion for a recurrent vote. The county ended up spending Sh7.7 billion on recurrent expenditure while Sh79.126 went to development.

Nakuru spent Sh6.7 billion on recurrent expenditure compared to Sh1.36 billion that went to development.

Nakuru, the report shows, was allowed to withdraw Sh7.96 billion from the revenue fund. The amount comprised of Sh1.59 billion for development and Sh6.38 billion for recurrent programmes.

The audit shows Busia received an approval to withdraw Sh5.15 billion during the reporting period. At least Sh970.15 million was planned for development and Sh4.18 billion for recurrent programme. The county spent Sh965 milion on projects and Sh3.9 billion on recurrent expenditure.

Kitui, Kajiado, Mombasa and Murang’a, the report by Dr Nyakang’o shows, attained the highest absorption rate, at 50.5 per cent, 48.8 per cent, 47.8 per cent and 46.3 per cent, respectively.

The report further shows at least 18 county governments exceeded the allowable limit of 35 per cent of their total annual revenues in their spending.

Baringo, Machakos, Bungoma, Elgeyo Marakwet, Embu, Garissa, Homa Bay, Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Kisii, Kitui, Meru, Murang’a, Nandi, Taita Taveta, Tharaka Nithi, Vihiga and West Pokot were listed as counties whose wage bill went above the limit of 35 per cent of their total budgets against the law.

Personnel emoluments alone took Sh117.19 billion of the cumulative recurrent expenditure of all counties.

“Nonetheless, this expenditure was a decrease from Sh126.28 billion incurred in a similar period of FY 2019/2020 which may be attributed to delays in release of the equitable share of revenue raised nationally by the National Treasury, thereby affecting timely payment of salaries,” the audit says.

Meanwhile, counties generated Sh23.52 billion during the first nine months of 2020/2021 when the study was carried out. The amount represented 45.6 per cent of their total annual target of Sh56.02 billion. It was however a decrease from Sh28.04 billion generated in a similar period in the 2019/2020 fiscal year.

Tana River, Turkana and Migori achieved the highest ratios of own-source revenue at 92.6 per cent, 84.5 per cent and 77.8 per cent, respectively. On the other hand, counties that recorded the lowest proportion of own-source revenue against annual targets were Narok at 14.5 per cent, Wajir (18 per cent) and Busia (20.7 per cent).

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