Delayed disbursement starves counties of cash

Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya with other governors. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • The Nation has established that thousands of county workers are yet to get their November salaries.
  • On Sunday, Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya said counties are grappling with cash flow problems that have crippled services and stalled projects.
  • Meru deputy governor Titus Ntuchiu, who is also the Finance Executive, said they had not paid salaries due to the delay.

Counties are staring at a repeat financial crisis that could cripple their operations after the tenure of the acting Controller of Budget Stephen Masha ended before releasing funds to the devolved units.

The main task of the CoB is to approve release of cash from the government’s main account — the Consolidated Fund Services — to ministries, counties and state agencies.

CONTROLLER OF BUDGET

On August 27, President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed Mr Masha as the Controller of Budget in an acting capacity following the exit of Agnes Odhiambo whose term came to an end. The appointment took effect immediately for a period of 90 days, which expired on November 25.

The Nation has established that thousands of county workers are yet to get their November salaries. Some counties are only paying net salaries but have not remitted statutory deductions and other employee deductions such as Sacco contributions.

On Sunday, Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya said counties are grappling with cash flow problems that have crippled services and stalled projects.

“County governments have been unable to pay out the most critical fiscal obligations including November salaries, statutory deductions and procured supplies,” Mr Oparanya said.

The Constitution requires the National Treasury to disburse the counties’ share of revenue by the 15th day of every month. Total equitable share allocation to the counties in the year starting July is Sh316.5 billion.

SERVICE DELIVERY

“We urge the national government to fast track the filling of the vacancy in the Controller of Budget office to enable authorisation of county funds to ensure timely service delivery. It should also disburse all the pending allocations that are long overdue and should have been disbursed on November 15 to allow for seamless service delivery and payment of pending bills,” the CoG chairman said.

Murang’a Governor Mwangi Wa Iria said the county was affected by failure by the government to release the monies.

"We are in a mess, we have not paid salaries and we don't have emergency funds leave alone monies for development," he said.

Meru deputy governor Titus Ntuchiu, who is also the Finance Executive, said they had not paid salaries due to the delay.

“We urge the National Treasury to expedite release of the money because besides salaries there are other crucial services that have been grounded, including buying of drugs for our hospitals,” Mr Ntuchiu added. In Laikipia, staff are also yet to be paid.

“This is the second cash stalemate counties are facing as a result of a constitutional process. Instead of dealing with such structural weaknesses the country is busy politicking. The senate needs to come out strongly in the defence of devolution,” Deputy Governor John Mwaniki said.

PREDICAMENT

Other counties that confirmed being in the same predicament include Kirinyaga, Mombasa, Kilifi, Samburu, Nandi, Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot.

Margaret Nyakango, a director at the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), was nominated to be the new Controller of Budget. She appeared before National Assembly’s Committee on National Planning last Thursday for vetting.

Counties were starved of cash at the start of the financial year following a stalemate over the revenue sharing formula between the national government and the devolved units.

Additional reporting by Gitonga Marete, Ndung’u Gachane, Wycliff Kipsang’, Tom Matoke, Oscar Kakai, Evans Kipkura, Francis Mureithi, Eric Matara, Steve Njuguna and Waikwa Maina

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