Controller of Budget report sparks alarms over salaries and travel splurge by county governments

Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o

Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o.

Photo credit: File | Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Counties are spending as high as 70 percent of budgets on salaries, wages and allowances.
  • The trend goes against requirement to spend no more than 35 percent.

County governments are on the spot over their high budgetary allocations for salaries in relation to development spending in contravention of the law.

Controller of Budget (CoB) Margaret Nyakang’o revealed in a report tabled before the Senate Finance and Budget Committee that some counties spend as high as 70 per cent of their budgets on salaries, wages and allowances.

Kisii County was fingered for being the biggest offender, spending 70 per cent of total revenue on personnel emolument in the financial year ended June 2023 against the legal requirement of 35 per cent as stipulated in Regulation 25(1)(b) of the Public Finance Management (County Governments) Regulations, 2015.

Other high spenders were Kiambu (64.60 per cent), Garissa (61.40 per cent), Machakos (60.00 per cent), Nyeri (57.30 per cent) and Tharaka Nithi (56.90 per cent). Eleven counties spent between 50 and 60 per cent of their revenues to pay employees.

They are Meru, Murang’a, Nakuru, Taita Taveta, Nyamira, Kisumu, Mombasa, Laikipia, Embu, Tharaka Nithi and Nyeri.

“The aggregate county expenditure on compensation to employees on total expenditure was 45.5 per cent,” Dr Nyakang’o said.

The governors have in the past blamed their high wage bills on staff inherited from the defunct local authorities and those seconded from the national government. They also cited poor own-source revenue collection.

Only three counties hit their own-source revenue targets, according to Dr Nyakang’o, with seven recording less than 50 per cent of their targets. Those that hit their targets are Kitui (110.6 per cent), Kirinyaga (112.3 per cent), and Lamu (119.8 per cent).

Eleven counties spent less than 20 per cent of their total revenues on development. They are Kisii (5.7 per cent), Kiambu (10.2 per cent), Nairobi (13.9 per cent), Machakos (16.8 per cent) and Busia (16.8 per cent). Others are Mombasa (17.4 per cent), Tharaka Nithi (18.3 per cent), Laikipia (18.7 per cent), Migori (19.9 per cent) and Kisumu (19.9 per cent).

Only seven counties spent at least 30 per cent of their budgets on development — Marsabit, Baringo, Uasin Gishu, Mandera, Kwale, Kilifi and West Pokot.

In the fiscal year ended June 2021, Governor Anne Waiguru’s Kirinyaga County spent Sh2.24 billion on paying its 2,361 employees, translating to 43.54 per cent of the county’s total revenue of Sh5.15 billion.

The county was left with only Sh1.6 billion for operations and development,where the latter took only Sh800 million.

During the same financial year, Mutahi Kahiga’s Nyeri County spent Sh3.6 billion in respect of compensation of employees.

The amount was about 41 percent of the total county revenue of Sh8.7 billion with the percentage reported to have risen to over 60 percent in the fiscal year ended June 2023.

The CoB report revealed that the counties have ballooned pending bills amounting to Sh164.76 billion as at June 30, 2023 compared to Sh153.02 billion in 2022. Nairobi is leading with Sh107.3 billion, followed by Wajir (Sh5.5 billion), Mombasa (Sh4.2 billion), Kiambu (Sh5.9 billion) and Mandera (Sh3.1 billion).

The devolved units are also on the spot for spending Sh17.4 billion on domestic and foreign travel in the financial year ended June 2023.

Nairobi County led in travel expenses at Sh337.20 million. Baringo splashed Sh184.33 million, Mombasa splurged Sh124.84 million, Nakuru spent Sh100.60 million while Kitui spent Sh96.99 million. Other top spenders were Meru (Sh84.48 million), Bomet (Sh81.16 million), Kiambu (Sh81.11 million), Nyeri (Sh80.18 million), Murangá (Sh78.62 million) and Nyamira (Sh71.58 million). The least spenders on travel were Homa Bay (Sh6.23 million), Elgeyo Marakwet (Sh7.62 million), Kakamega (Sh8.15 million), Isiolo (Sh8.33 million), Garissa (Sh9.01 million) and Siaya (Sh9.41 million).

“The aggregate county expenditure on domestic and foreign travel to total operations and maintenance was 8.98 per cent,” Dr Nyakang’o’s report reads in part.