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Counties want more funds, greater autonomy

POLITICS
By Stephen Makabila | June 14th 2015

The County Assemblies Forum (CAF) wants more funds for its membership to allow them to  function more efficiently.

The forum told the Senate Committee on Finance, Economics and Budget last week that operations in 34 county assemblies were on the verge of shutting down because these assemblies had run out of cash.

It said the spending ceiling imposed by the Commission for Revenue Allocation (CRA) was far to low and would limit the ability of counties to function effectively. CAF said its members would not effectively perform their oversight and legislative roles if they continue to depend on county treasuries for funds.

Instead, it said, the National Treasury should fund them directly. A report by CAF says 34 county assemblies require an additional Sh4.4 billion to run their operations until June 2016 when the 2015-16 financial year comes to an end.

The report, for example, warns that Turkana County will have a deficit of Sh702 million, Vihiga Sh350 million, Meru Sh270 million, Nairobi Sh268 million and Garissa Sh211 million. “In line with Senate’s mandate to protect the interests of the counties, the Senate Committee on Finance, Economics and Budget chaired by Mandera Senator Billow Kerrow is holding a series of consultative meetings to agree on a rationale for the 2015-16 budget ceilings,” CAF  posted on its website.

However, Kerrow said the amount of money allocated to county assemblies had increased. “This year (2015-16), county assemblies have been allocated Sh25 billion compared to Sh17 billion for the 2014-15 financial year. This is close to a 50 per cent increment,” he said. Kerrow said the Senate would look at requests based on individual county assemblies because each assembly has adequate money for operations, not wastage.

On the issue of direct funding of the county assemblies by the National Treasury, the Mandera Senator said the matter had been forwarded to the Controller of Budget. “They can get the funds directly if the Controller of Budget approves. The funds will go directly to operational accounts of the county assemblies, not the county treasuries.”

CAF national chairman Dr Abdi Nuh Nassir has in the past said that the quality of their operations had been undermined by the lack of funds. “Due to financial limitations, county assemblies are also unable to hire quality staff. You cannot attract and sustain good brains without paying them well,” added Nuh.

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Responding to complaints by governors that the National Government was spending some money on their behalf, Kerrow said that money for projects supported by donors cannot be sent to counties as cash.  He was speaking in reference to the Sh24 billion set aside for donor-funded projects that will be deducted from the total allocation to counties derive  from national revenues. The balance of Sh24 billion will be managed by the National Government on behalf of county governments.   

Kerrow said conditional allocation of the Sh24 billion is through project financing by donors which comes through the National Treasury. “The Sh24 billion is expenditure in counties through national government.

In the next one week, we will know what each county will receive in conditional allocations,” the senator said. 

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