How Governor Kawiza Mwangaza, MCAs' feud will shape 2024/2025 Meru budget

Meru County Assembly

Meru County Assembly in a past session.

Photo credit: File

The County Assembly of Meru has made far-reaching changes to the county’s 2024/2025 budget as differences between Governor Kawira Mwangaza and the MCAs escalate.

The MCAs passed the County Fiscal Strategy Paper (CFSP) 2024, with several amendments in a move that will deny the executive leeway on what money is to be spent on programmes.

The ward reps and the executive have been at loggerheads over the allocation of more than Sh531 million to the Mechanical Transport Fund for road projects and Sh100 million for the donation of cows in the current financial year.

MCAs also accuse the governor of selectively implementing development projects, favouring wards where elected MCAs are friendly.

Deputy Speaker Mwenda Ali has since presented a petition to the Senate Committee on Devolution calling for a probe into the discriminatory implementation of development projects in Meru.

Budget and Appropriations Committee chairperson Jacob Mwirigi said the CFSP 2024 sets the pace for the allocation of more development funds to the ward level.

The CFSP 2024 sets departmental spending limits out of the Sh12.4 billion budget anticipated in the next financial year.

According to the CFSP, the county will spend Sh8.4 billion on recurrent expenditure and Sh3.8 billion on development in the coming year.

 “The County Treasury had only conducted public participation for Sh690 million out of Sh3.8 billion proposed for total development expenditure. There was therefore no public participation for over Sh3.2 billion.”

 “Consequently, it is only fair and just for the County Assembly to consider the submissions from the public made on the total development expenditure as a whole,” the budget committee concluded.

The MCAs have distributed Sh1.8 billion of the development kitty to ward-based projects with most wards being allocated Sh45 million each.

Another Sh2 billion which includes conditional grants was not shared out to the wards.

“We conducted public participation at the ward level and got priority projects from the people. Each project has been listed alongside its budget,” Mr Mwirigi said.

He added “We intend to ensure more development funds reach the smallest unit of devolution. Previously, most of the money was being spent at the county level, without impacting the grassroots."

Minority Whip Dennis Kiogora said the county has been preparing its previous development budget with more emphasis on ‘flagship’ projects. Flagship projects are viewed as developments that cut across many wards.

“In the past, we have been allocating Sh15 million per ward which is not enough for development. An MCA had to be in good books with the executive to lobby for more funding for the ward. We have resolved that we will no longer beg the governor,” Mr Kiogora said.

Mr Mwirigi said they have also taken measures to guard against misuse of conditional grants which are allocated for development in the county.

 “As a budget committee, we noted that conditional grants are being spent on recurrent activities affecting our development budget.”

 “In 2022/2023, our development budget was at 21 percent because of misuse of grants. This is why they must submit work plans to the assembly for approval,” he said.

Despite concerns over a ballooning wage bill, the MCAs recommended the allocation of Sh305 million for recruitment of health workers, ECDE teachers, extension officers and water engineers.

They have also directed the county treasury to create a vote in the budget for the office of the deputy governor following complaints of lack of facilitation by deputy governor Isaac Mutuma.

The MCAs have also called for the disbandment of the county revenue board since its expenditure was almost the local revenue.