CoB report shows clearly that Kenyans are getting a raw deal

Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o when she appeared before the Senate Standing Committee Finance and Budget and Council of Governors to deliberate on the prompt payment bill at the County Hall, Nairobi on March 30, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Kenyans in urban and rural areas were optimistic after the creation of second level of government following the promulgation of the new Constitution. Finally, government services had been brought closer to them. Before that, inhabitants of Turkana and Mandera would quip that travelling to Nairobi was akin "travelling to Kenya".

The overriding devolution theme was that resources should follow functions, mainly delivery of government goods and services. But it is clear that that is not the case if the recent report of the Controller of Budget (CoB) is anything to go by.

CoB released a damning County Governments’ Budget Implementation Review Report (CBIRR) for July 2023 to September 2023 which painted a bleak future for counties. The most stinging indictment was Nairobi County which, according to the report, had zero capital expenditure during the period. Others were Embu, Homa Bay, Kericho, Kilifi, Machakos, Samburu, Turkana, Wajir and West Pokot counties.

This is the opposite of what Governor Johnson Sakaja promised Nairobians during the election campaigns. He promised a green city; a city that would compete with Dubai, Singapore, Tokyo, London and the likes. If the CoB report is accurate, this is another familiar case of leaders being big on words and small in action.

Mr Sakaja promised to deliver a modern transportation system in Nairobi. It is impossible to see how he will deliver on this promise with his current spending. Suffice to say that he is running a consumptive government as evidenced by the report.

Cumulatively, the 47 counties spent a paltry Sh6.92 billion (10 per cent) on development activities and 60.52 billion on recurrent expenditure (89.7 per cent).

A deeper dive into the recurrent activities is more concerning. Out of a quarterly budgetary allocation of Sh67 billion, Sh41.79 billion went to salaries and allowances. Sh8 billion was used on operations and maintenance of the county governments.

The wastefulness in operations and maintenance is rampant with majority of the counties spending big on domestic travel and less on critical operations such as running county health facilities. More appalling is that the 47 counties spent a combined sum of Sh3 billion on domestic travel within four months. One wonders where to?

And over Sh300 million was spent on MCAs’ sitting allowances. All these expenditures exceeded the threshold set by the CoB.

The counties also performed dismally on own-source revenue targets with only Nyeri, Narok, Isiolo and Samburu counties achieving targets. The CoB also cites low budget absorption rate in all counties.  

The report clearly indicates that Kenyans are getting a raw deal.

Even worse, the Senate, a House tasked with oversighting county governments has lost its bearing. Rather than examine the spending of public resources by county governments, they are busy summoning CSs who are employees of the national government and under the purview of the National Assembly.

Senators forget that they have 47 governors to meticulously scrutinise. Sadly, they seem to have forgotten that their mandates are to oversight county governments, protect the interest of the counties and look for more resources.

Unfortunately, the Senate has become a branch of the executive and is unable to think on its own. That explains why before a major senatorial decision, they are summoned by their party honchos.

If President Mwai Kibaki, the visionary leader, was to wake up today, there is no doubt he would be disgusted by the gluttonous consumptive nature of county governments that have proven allergic to capital expenditure.

Counties must change course. They must look at how Confederate States in the US managed to build themselves. In 100 years from now, majority of the counties will still be squabbling with the national government over revenue sharing if they continue funding useless consumption.

Mr Kipruto is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya. [email protected]

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