Budget openness: West Pokot best as Migori rated the worst

Members of the Uasin Gishu County Assembly follow proceedings during the reading of a budget statement

Members of the Uasin Gishu County Assembly follow proceedings during the reading of a budget statement for the financial year 2022/2023 by acting Finance and Economic Planning Executive Samuel Yego in June last year.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

West Pokot has the most transparent budget of the 47 counties, a new report has revealed.

The 2022 County Budget Transparency Survey report by the International Budget Partnership-Kenya (IBPK) says the county scored 78 points out of a possible 100. Makueni was second with 75 points while Kwale emerged third best with 74 points.

The survey released on Tuesday shows Kitui and Nyeri tied with 69 points, with Nairobi County sixth with 68 points. Kwale, Lamu, Taita Taveta, Bungoma, and Tharaka Nithi were the most improved counties, with Lamu raising its score of 21 points in the 2021 survey to 60 points and securing a spot among the top ten most transparent counties.

Tana River came out as the county with the most comprehensive citizens’ budget report, while Mombasa County was rated as having the most comprehensive Finance Act.

Migori, Isiolo, Kajiado, and Wajir however emerged as counties with the most opaque budget-making processes, scoring zero points. 

Jumuiya ya Kaunti za Pwani bloc was voted the most transparent, followed by counties in the Southeastern Kenya Economic Bloc.

The counties budget transparency score is measured by the availability of key fiscal documents and other related information as required by the Public Finance Management Act (PFM Act),2012, and its accompanying regulations.

The documents are the Annual Development Plan, County Fiscal Strategy Paper, Citizen Budget, County Budget Implementation Report, and the County Integrated Development Plan.

IBP-K Country Manager Abraham Rugo observed that there was a notable growth in budget transparency compared to in previous years.

"The level of information provided in CBTS 2022 is at 41 out of 100 points, an improvement from 35 out of 100 points in CBTS 2021," he said during the release of the survey in Nairobi. He added that the level of comprehensiveness in information being provided in the documents has improved. 

Coast governors appealed to their colleagues across the country to embrace transparency in order to strengthen devolution.

Kwale Governor Fatuma Achani said counties should keep their citizens informed and involved in budget-making processes.

“An informed citizenry makes a developed county. In Kwale, we engage our people right from the village level and we keep them in the loop all through [the budgeting process]," she said.

Budgeting laws

Lamu Governor Issa Timamy called for further training for officials in the executive and members of the county assembly on compliance with budgeting laws.

"There is still a vacuum that needs to be filled when it comes to budget transparency and this invites the efforts of various bodies and experts in partnership with the counties to realize positive achievements," he said.

Makueni Governor Mutula Kilonzo Junior said there was an urgent need to evaluate why some counties were scoring zero.

‘Limited capacity’

“I find it hard to understand how a county can score a zero in consecutive budget transparency reports, we need to know whether it's deliberate or a question of limited capacity," he said.

West Pokot Governor Simon Kachapin urged counties to embrace dialogue with the public beyond politics and allow them access to information.

He said running a county should not be a one-man show, but should involve a well-informed public. 

"In my county, I hired an activist as my chief officer for finance," he said while appealing to other governors to engage more with members of civil society organisations to encourage transparency in the budgeting process.