Kakamega budget proposed estimates 'a comedy of errors'

Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa inspecting the maize plantation of farmer Benjamin Mumia at Muperi village, Lusheya/ Lubinu in Mumias East on May 14. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

The proposed Kakamega County 2024–2025 financial year budget has glaring errors according to locals.

Residents and civil societies flagged numerous errors and duplications during public participation on the document.

They fear such errors could lead to loss of colossal sums of public money. “In the short time we interacted with this document, we have noted glaring repetitions, recurring codes used for dissimilar vote heads and some budgetary allocations to complete projects, which on the ground are complete,” Samuel Ogunda, a resident observed.

Patrick Aura, a resident of Mayoni ward, questioned why the proposed budget allocated Sh40 million to upgrade the Ogalo-Indangalasia road to bitumen standard when the said road is already tarmacked.  

He also questioned the rationale behind allocation of Sh165 million for hire of ambulances against Sh243 million for drugs. “They got their priorities wrong. Our health facilities have suffered a perennial shortage of drugs. Yet in the budget, priority has been given to ambulances instead of primary health care. Do they intend to transfer patients to facilities that are drug deficient?” he posed.

Aura also cited incidents of duplication in the health budget where a proposal to spend Sh128 million on the implementation of a community health strategy captures CHV(P)s and another Sh25.5 million on Universal Health Coverage denoted as CHVs, and a further Sh5 million to buy smartphones for CHVs.

“It was interesting that UHC, a programme of the national government, found its way into the county budget,” he said.

“We have been having issues with emergency services specifically the ambulance service from the last regime which is affecting the current regime, it is not prudent and right to allocate Sh165 million for hiring and maintenance of the ambulances when the same money can be used to buy ambulances in phases so that we solve the issue for good,” said George Ambunya, a resident.

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) activist Paul Odongo accused the drafters of the budget of using vague language deliberately in a bid to defeat the process of budget tracking.  

“The us of such words as ‘other capital projects’  under a single code to define unnamed projects for funding is a scheme against the budget tracking processes,” he claimed.

The county budget estimates propose to spend Sh 27.3 million to equip unnamed health facilities and Sh 80 million on Imarisha Jamii programme, a social monthly stipend to cushion new mothers from poor and vulnerable households. 

Despite budget allocations to the Imarisha Jamii programme, echoes from the subscribers reveal no new mother has received a cent from the kitty in the past two years. 

Residents and CSOs now want the county assembly budget committee to return the proposed Kakamega County Budget and Appropriation Bill to the treasury for fresh review before re-subjecting it to public scrutiny.

They said some proposed expenditures in the budget estimates were a fraud against residents, adding the county assembly alone cannot be trusted to conduct a thorough review of the riddle of numbers in the bill.

The county government intends to spend Sh16.4 billion in the next financial year, down from Sh17.3 billion in the current year. 

A total of Sh11.7 billion will go to recurrent expenditure and Sh4.7 billion to development. One of the greatest losers is the stalled Sh6 billion Kakamega Level Six Hospital, which attracted only Sh40 million for operations. 

Residents have urged Governor Fernandes Barasa’s administration to ensure the stalled projects are completed before initiating new ones while questioning why the mega stalled projects receive annual allocation but there is no work to be seen. Besides the Kakamega Level Six Referral Hospital, other stalled projects are the Malava Milk Plant and Bukhungu Stadium. The stalled Sh100 million Lugari maize factory has been allocated Sh5 million.

“We have seen the budget and most of the mega projects that ought to benefit residents have received little allocations and yet the same projects usually get allocations yearly but never take off,” said James Agesa

Kakamega County Assembly Budget and Appropriation Committee Chairperson Gildon Shioso promised residents that the committee would consider their views before approval of the proposed budget estimates.

“We are going to ensure that mega stalled projects like Bukhungu stadium, Malava Dairy Plant, and Lugari maize factory are financed and completed even if it is to allocate money gradually therefore I want to ensure our residents that we will factor their views before we approve the budget and ensure the stalled projects get completed before the new ones,” said Shioso.