Counties have protested delays by the National Treasury to release Sh42 billion in equitable shareable revenues, even as a new report exposed unusual spending on personal emoluments by devolved units.
The Council of Governors (CoG), in its first press statement of the new year, yesterday accused Treasury of dragging its feet in disbursement of the outstanding balance, claiming that some counties had not received their revenues since November last year. The delay, they said, had affected counties’ implementation of development programmes.
“As of today, [Treasury] has disbursed Sh140.89 billion, which is 38 per cent of the total equitable share allocation to counties. All 47 county governments have received their allocation for July, August, September and October, and 29 counties for November 2021 as per approved disbursement schedule,” said CoG Chairman Martin Wambora.
The Embu governor said Treasury had not released 12.7 billion owed to 18 counties for November 2021 and Sh29.6 billion owed to all the counties for December 2021.
But the cry by county bosses is ironical, since counties have, this financial year, and according to the Controller of Budget (COB), spent 93 per cent of funds on recurrent expenditure while ignoring development projects. The COB report on counties’ spending between July and September 2021 indicates that of the Sh52 billion the devolved units, Sh49 billion went to payment of salaries and allowances, while development projects were allocated a meagre Sh3.5 billion.
The rush to spend on perks and ignore development could be related to the fact that elections are around the corner and many officials are not assured of their jobs.
In the first quarter of 2021/22, counties received Sh104.1 billion out of the targeted Sh505.2 billion, of which they spent Sh52 billion.
“This amount [comprised] Sh61.05 billion equitable share of revenue raised nationally, Sh36.30 billion cash balance from FY2019/20, and Sh6.76 billion raised from own sources. During the reporting period, county governments raised Sh6.76 billion, which was 12 per cent of the annual target of Sh56.52 billion,” the COB report observes.
Recurrent spending constitutes 15.4 per cent of annual county budgets and is an increase from the Sh35.87 billion they spent over the same period in 2020/21.
Recurrent expenditure comprised Sh38.15 billion (77.4 per cent) on personnel emoluments and Sh11.14 billion (22.6 per cent) on operations and maintenance expenditure.
On the other hand, development expenditure was a mere Sh3.55 billion, 1.9 per cent of the targeted annual development expenditure and 6.7 per cent of the total amount counties spent in the quarter.
Dr Nyakang’o said 22 counties did not report any spending on development activities over the three months, despite gobbling up billions on perks and barely collecting any tangible revenue on their own.
The counties are Baringo, Bungoma, Busia, Homa Bay, Isiolo, Kajiado, Kericho, Kilifi, Kisumu, Machakos, Marsabit, Migori, Mombasa, Nairobi City, Nakuru, Narok, Nyandarua, Siaya, Taita-Taveta, Trans Nzoia, Vihiga, and Wajir.
The report shows only seven counties recorded spending at least 15 per cent of their total expenditure during the period on development.
In the three months, Treasury released Sh57 billion to counties, out of which Sh51.3 billion was sent to county executives and Sh5.76 billion to county assemblies.
The CoG chair yesterday blamed the growing pending bills in counties on disbursement delays, which, he said, were hampering implementation of projects.
He urged Dr Nyakang’o to allow counties to pay the pending bills on a first-in-first-out basis, following aging lists submitted by 46 counties to her office. He further explained that counties have been unable to implement projects and programmes owing to delay by the National Assembly and Senate to pass County Governments Conditional Grants Bill.
“We therefore urge Speakers of the National Assembly and Senate to fast-track the process of appointing members to the mediation committee to ensure the bill is passed in the shortest time possible,” he said.
The CoB also faults counties over their poor own-source revenue performance, which did not even hit half the target between July and September
Dr Nyakang’o recommended that counties should revise down their targets and resist over-optimism.
Counties are expected to collect at least 25 per cent of their annual targets in any quarter, to stand chance of attaining the revenue targets.
“An analysis of own-source revenue as a proportion of the annual revenue target indicates that Migori, Turkana, and Samburu achieved the highest proportions at 30.1 per cent, 29.6 per cent, and 29.2 per cent, respectively.”
“Counties that recorded the lowest proportion of own-source revenue against annual targets were Kisumu at 7.2 per cent, Nairobi City at 7.2 per cent, and Murang’a at 6.2 per cent,” the report states.