Bid for new independent CDF auditor gets backing

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi during an interview at his office premises in Nairobi on July 5, 2021.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi cites a conflict of interest in the current review arrangement.
  • He challenged public finance watchdogs to explore alternative channels to oversee the NG-CDF.
  • There have been fears that CDF cash is not managed transparently.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has backed proposals for a new independent body to scrutinise audit reports on the use of the multibillion-shilling National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF), citing conflict of interest in the current review arrangement.

Currently, the fund is managed by committees at the constituency level under the area MP’s patronage. This has raised concern as the NG-CDF is audited by the Auditor-General who then reports to Parliament annually—a scenario that risks watering down accountability.

“It’s only fair that if you are audited by somebody, then you cannot be the one again to go and make a decision about yourself. Another independent person should be found. I don’t know how this happens in other jurisdictions but many parliaments don’t have facilities like the CDF, which we have here. Yet it’s a lot of public resources which are placed in the hands of MPs,” Mr Muturi said at the launch of a new 2021-2025 strategic plan for the Auditor-General’s office on Wednesday.

Alternative channels

He challenged public finance watchdogs, including the Auditor-General, the Controller of Budget office, the Institute for Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK), and the Institute for Social Accountability (Tisa) to explore alternative channels to oversee the NG-CDF.

“The Auditor-General is audited by an independent auditor who is appointed by the National Assembly, but then the Auditor-General audits Parliament and brings the report as per the Constitution to Parliament. If the Auditor-General has found something that Parliament did wrong yet it’s the same Parliament she is reporting to, it becomes a very interesting situation,” Mr Muturi observed.

He added: “These professional bodies who are involved in public governance matters could look into and suggest some way forward.” The NG-CDF was introduced in Kenya in 2003 as a home-grown initiative to address inequalities in national development. All the 290 constituencies receive the fund.

Part of the amount is sent to the constituencies equally while the other is allocated to them based on their poverty ranking using a formula that ensures poorer regions get more cash. Issues such as the total number of people living below the poverty line in a constituency and the total population are factored in.

Don’t benefit locals

In fiscal 2021/2022, Sh41.71 billion was allocated to the NG-CDF, which translates to 2.98 per cent of the national government share of the revenue.

There have been fears that CDF cash is not managed transparently; that many CDF projects don’t benefit the local communities, which aren’t sufficiently involved in its management.

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