The quest for better roads, schools, and hospitals remains a mirage as development is not a priority for counties according to spending reports that expose little allocations for growth in the last six months.
All the governors have violated the law that requires a minimum of 30 per cent of the county government’s budget be allocated to development expenditure, but some have very little allocation for growth as they continue to splash on consumption.
Ideally, for every Sh1 allocation on development, spending on recurrent items like salaries and allowances must not exceed Sh2.33, but in some counties, the ratio has ballooned to Sh100.
The implication of this skewed spending is that poor access to healthcare that sees the sick in some regions walk long distances to access hospitals, impassable roads that block farmers from ferrying their produce to markets, and poor access to early childhood development education will persist.
It’s an indictment to newly elected governors, a majority of who campaigned on the platform of growth but have embraced the bad practice of paying lip service to development.
The latest report by Controller of Budget (COB) on money requested by counties for spending on different aspects over seven months to end of January 2023 shows that while no county met the legal threshold to allocate at least 30 per cent of resources to development, nearly half grossly breached the requirement, to levels of nearly 4,000 per cent.
The report shows that Governor Simba Arati of Kisii, who has been loud in his efforts to weed out ghost workers from the county since being sworn in, is spending the least on development.
The COB report shows that over the six months he has been in office, for each shilling he requested to channel to the county’s development projects, he requested Sh93 to use on recurrent activities, mainly on salaries and allowances.
Since being sworn in as the governor on August 25, 2022 until January 31, 2023, Mr Arati made at least 70 requests to be given money by the COB successfully, out of which 60 were requests for cash to pay salaries and settle expenses regarded as ‘operations and maintenance’, which mainly constitute travel allowances, hospitality expenses and trainings.
The county, during Mr Arati’s tenure, requested for Sh3.3 billion to fund its recurrent budget, and only Sh35.3 million for development. He overshot on recurrent expenditure by 3,886 per cent as compared to spending on development.
Over the seven months from July 2022 to end of January 2023, Kisii County requested Sh3.95 billion for recurrent budget and only Sh39.58 million for development, becoming the worst spender of public money, where for each Sh1 channelled to development, Sh99.8 was channelled to salaries, allowances and other non-development activities.
This is in breach of Public Finance Management (PFM) Act, 2012, which requires every public entity to allocate a minimum of 30 per cent of its budget to development and prohibiting any expenditure on recurrent beyond 70 per cent of the budget, which can be loosely translated to mean that for every Sh1 spent on development by a public entity, spending on recurrent activities must be capped at a maximum of Sh2.33.
“The law requires that public finances are managed in accordance with the principles of fiscal responsibility, which state that a minimum of 30 per cent of the County Government’s budget be allocated to development expenditure. This implies that a maximum of 70 percent of the County Government budget shall be allocated to recurrent expenditure,” the COB states.
The first thing you land on when you enter the Meru County government’s website is Governor Kawira Mwangaza commitment “to serve God and the great people of Meru County”.
However, over the six troubled months she has been in office, spending on development has not been a priority. The COB report flags the county for channelling over 98 per cent of resources to salaries and allowances, with the county’s development programmes left with a paltry 1.8 per cent.
Over the six months Ms Mwangaza has been in office, an ouster attempt by Members of County Assembly (MCAs) has not been the only challenge she has faced, as allocating proper resources to development to improve the county’s residents’ livelihoods has also proved to be a problem, having spent up to Sh53.7 on recurrent, for each Sh1 she channelled to development. The governor requested Sh3.77 billion for recurrent activities, but only Sh70 million for development, with salaries and O&Ms forming 52 of the 59 money requests the county made to fund its recurrent budget.
Over the seven months to end of January, Meru received Sh4.6 billion to fund its recurrent budget with only Sh70 million to fund development. This means that for every Sh1 it spent on development, it spent Sh65.6 on recurrent, overshooting the spending on recurrent over development by over 2,700 per cent
While Meru and Kisii exhibited the worst cases of imprudent use of public money, Lamu also followed with huge allocations on the recurrent budget.
While the county received Sh1.39 billion for spending on recurrent activities, only Sh35.8 million was received for development. This means that for every Sh1 that went into development for Lamu residents, Governor Issa Timamy, who made a comeback in 2022 after voters ejected him from office in the 2017 elections, spent Sh38.7 on salaries, allowances and other recurrent spending. Development budget’s share was a mere 2.5 per cent.
In Machakos and Migori, for every shilling the counties received to fund development activities, it received at least Sh22 to channel to recurrent activities. The counties are headed by governors Wavinya Ndeti (Machakos) and Ochilo Ayacko (Migori).
Governor Susan Kihika of Nakuru didn’t perform better either, as for every Sh1 spent on development, Sh20.8 went into recurrent activities.
All the above six counties, which overshot spending on recurrent by over 750 per cent, are headed by newly elected governors, with Mr Timamy the only who has served in the post before — between 2013 and 2017.
The PFM Act, 2012 observes that even after elections, new governors are not allowed to be irresponsible with management of public resources.
“If there is a change of county government, the new county government may deviate from the financial objectives in a County Fiscal Strategy Paper, but may not deviate from the fiscal responsibility objectives,” it states.
The other counties in the top 10, according to the COB report, also spent beyond the allowable Sh2.33 on recurrent for every shilling put into development, spending between Sh12 and Sh20, in total breach of the law.
They are Kiambu whose governor is Kimani Wamatangi (Sh19.9), Kitui whose governor is Julius Malombe (Sh19), Bungoma whose governor Ken Lusaka was Senate speaker until the 2022 elections and also served as governor of the county between 2013 and 2017 (Sh18) and Makueni County of Mutula Kilonzo Jr (Sh17).
The priorities exhibited by the governors on resource allocation position them as leaders interested in promoting consumption, rather than development for their residents. At least 11 of the 16 governors are serving for the first time as governors, while two made a comeback last year after voters rejected them in 2017.