Counties sacrifice development for Sh40bn extra salaries pay

The COB observed that the 47 devolved units spent a total of Sh257.18 billion between July 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022, compared to Sh221.39 billion spent during a similar period last year.

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In their final year in office, county governments spent almost all the money they got on salaries and allowances, raising their recurrent budgets by Sh40 billion in first nine months of 2021/22 compared to a similar period last year, while cutting spending on development by Sh4 billion.

Only five counties committed at least a quarter of their budgets to development as almost all focused on eating, perhaps fearing they may never come back, the Controller of Budget (COB) report on county governments budget implementation in the first nine months of the financial year 2021/22 shows.

This affected development activities across the country, with average allocation to development as a share of total expenditure by counties coming down from 21.9 per cent in 2020/21 to 17.2 per cent in 2021/22.

The COB observed that the 47 devolved units spent a total of Sh257.18 billion between July 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022, compared to Sh221.39 billion spent during a similar period last year.

Spending on recurrent activities rose from Sh172.93 billion to Sh212.88 billion, while spending on development dropped from Sh48.45 billion to Sh44.3 billion.

“Recurrent expenditure was Sh212.88 billion, representing 63.6 per cent of the annual recurrent budget, an improvement from 56.2 per cent reported in a similar period of FY 2020/21. Development expenditure amounted to Sh44.3 billion, representing an absorption rate of 22.8 per cent and a decline from 25.1 per cent attained in the first nine months of FY 2020/21 when total development expenditure was Sh48.45 billion,” the report stated.

This means that the counties spent all of the additional Sh35.79 billion for payment of personnel emoluments and other recurrent activities and went further to cut spending on development by Sh4.15 billion as compared to last year, to add on recurrent spending.

Sh4.5 billion for development

The nine worst counties that spent a total of Sh62.1 billion from July to March, used only Sh4.5 billion for development, leaving their recurrent spending 13 times more than that of development, a performance way below the recommended Public Finance Management (PFM) threshold of at least 30 per cent of public expenditure being committed to development activities.

The worst performing counties are Taita Taveta, Nairobi, Narok, Kiambu, Machakos, Kisumu, Nyandarua, Wajir and Garissa.

Taita Taveta, the worst performer, spent a meagre 2.7 per cent of its total expenditure on development, while 97.3 was spent paying salaries, allowances and other recurrent activities. Out of the Sh3.2 billion the county spent over the nine months, only Sh84 million went into development, meaning that the county whose governor is Mr Granton Samboja, spent money on salaries, allowances and other recurrent activities, 38.2 times more than it spent on development.

Nairobi City County’s expenditure on recurrent was 14.4 times more than on development, spending Sh1 billion on development and Sh15.2 billion on recurrent activities. The COB reported that the money Nairobi spent paying personnel emoluments (Sh10.9 billion) was over 10 times more than the amount spent on development for citizens.

The report also flagged Narok County, whose governor Samuel Tunai is serving final term, for spending 12.7 times on recurrent activities compared to development, which consumed a mere 7.3 per cent of the county’s nine-month budget.

Closing the list of five worst performers, Kiambu and Machakos counties also spent 12.6 and 12.3 times on recurrent than on development respectively, with development constituting a mere 7.3 and 7.5 per cent share of total expenditures respectively.

Committed only Sh497 million

Kiambu, under Governor James Nyoro, who is seeking a second term, spent a total of Sh8.39 billion in the nine months, but only Sh615.9 million went into development, while Machakos, whose Governor Alfred Mutua is exiting, committed only Sh497 million of the total expenditure of Sh6.6 billion to development.

A total of 20 counties spent less than 15 per cent of respective total expenditures on development – less than half the recommended threshold -- while only two, Marsabit (41.2 per cent) and Mombasa (32.6 per cent) spent above the recommended 30 per cent threshold.

COB Margaret Nyakang’o noted that the counties spent a total of Sh139.57 billion on personnel emoluments and Sh73.3 billion on operations and maintenance, while during a similar period last year, Sh117 billion was spent on personnel emoluments, Sh55.7 billion on operations and maintenance.

“County governments should ensure that spending on personnel emoluments is contained at sustainable levels and in compliance with Regulation 25 (1) (b) of the Public Finance Management (County Governments) Regulations, 2015,” Ms Nyakang’o recommended.

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