Sakaja, Wamatangi hunt for revenue to fund key pledges

Budgets are a foundation for delivering pledges in different sectors. [iStockphoto]

Reality has started sinking in as governors are confronted with shoe-string budgets amid hefty promises they made on campaign trails.

For first-term county bosses, the budgets are a foundation for delivering their pledges in different sectors.

And this is the case for Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja and his Kiambu counterpart Kimani Wamatangi. They made heavy pledges but they do not have sufficient financial resources to fulfill all the promises.

For Sakaja, one of his key legacy promises was introducing a school feeding programme, which is being rolled out with a modest Sh1.2 billion from the Sh42.3 billion budget that was read by County Finance Executive Charles Kerich on June 29, 2023.

While delivering the budget, Kerich said the feeding programme will encourage students to attend school, leading to an increase in enrollment.

“I have allocated Sh1.2 billion in recurrent budget for public primary schools and ECD (Early Childhood Development) centres feeding and Sh500 million in development for construction of kitchens and serving sheds,” he said.

Education, health and infrastructure were among the dockets that got the lion's share of the capital city’s development and transformation plan for the 2023-24 financial year.

Some Sh2.6 billion was set aside for infrastructural development with areas of focusing being completion of stalled road projects, repairing storm water drainage and building bridges, among other repairs.

In the health sector, Sh1.1 billion was allocated for construction, equipping and rehabilitation of facilities, while another Sh400 million will be channeled for equipping and stocking of sufficient drugs and non-pharmaceuticals in the hospitals.

To raise the revenue, Kerich pledged that the county will continue using the digital pay service platform for convenience while at the same time broadening the revenue base.

“We intend to restructure the single business permits codes by introducing new parameters (hyper, mega, large, medium, small and mini) for classification of business in order to enhance fairness and compliance,” he explained.

To ensure county targets are met, the county treasury projects an income of Sh19.9 billion from internal sources and Sh22.5 billion from external sources.

In the neighbouring Kiambu, Governor Wamatangi intends to collect approximately Sh8 billion through own source revenue (OSR) in the next financial year.

The county government collected approximately Sh3.6 billion in OSR in the last financial year ending June 30, 2023, representing a 12 per cent increase compared to the Sh3.1 billion collected the previous year.

Although the collection reflects a 72 per cent performance on the Sh5 billion set target and is the highest ever for the county, Wamatangi said it is still inadequate given the county's capacity to raise at least Sh13 billion.

For the 2023–24 fiscal year, he has set a target of Sh7.9 billion and a budget of Sh22 billion.

"Even if there was an improvement throughout the period, this is hardly a number we can applaud given that it was election season and there were transitional impacts," the governor said.

"Over Sh5 billion was collected. However, due to dishonest personnel and system manipulation, about 30 per cent was lost."

The executive is banking on a new Enterprise Resource System (ERP), a holistic system that covers management of finances in all the sectors.

The targeted areas include hospital management, building approvals, business permits and other revenue charges as well as exploring more revenue streams.

The governor has a Sh21 billion budget to fulfill his promises. Health department is among the winners with an allocation of Sh7.69 billion.

Roads and transport dockets each got an allocation of Sh2.569 billion, finance (Sh1.7billion), education (Sh1.54 billion), agriculture (Sh1.4 billion), trade (Sh996 million) and administration was allocated Sh949 million.

Finance and Planning CEC Nancy Kirumba says Sh7.9 billion OSR target has been informed by an ongoing rapid response initiative on revenue collection.

At the same time the county intends to install a new ERP system, which will also incorporate the building approval and land rate platforms to boost the revenue from the property sector.

The county government was forced to terminate the Electronic Development Application System (EDAMs) due to concerns that developers were submitting applications but would become frustrated due to the system's frequent outages.

Some developers had waited for as long as three years for their applications to be processed, and Wamatangi claimed that corrupt officials would then demand bribes to process them outside of the system, depriving the county of revenue in the booming real estate market.

[Reporting by Pkemoi Ng’enoh and Gitau Wanyoike]