Siaya County only spent 4.8 per cent of its development budget on projects.
Counties might have returned billions meant for improving the welfare of their residents after utilising just a fifth of development cash they received from the National Treasury.
Unspent development cash by the end of 2018/19 financial year in June might have reached epic levels for counties such as Siaya. Cornel Rasanga’s administration only managed to spend 4.8 per cent of the development kitty by the end of March 2019, according to the latest data from the Office of Controller of Budget.
His Nakuru counterpart, Lee Kinyanjui, did not fare any better with his government utilising only nine per cent of the available development cash.
The County Government Budget Implementation Report for the period between July 2018 and March 2019 shows that for every Sh100 that the devolved units received from the Exchequer to build roads, schools, hospitals, improve sewer lines, distribute water or construct market stalls in the first nine months of Financial Year 2018/19, Sh76 went untouched.
This is even as money for recurrent spending including salaries and travel allowances was snapped up with gusto by county executives and MCAs.
The absorption rate – actual spending as a fraction of available funds – for recurrent expenditure stood at 65 per cent compared to 24 per cent for development expenditure.This was less than the legal requirement that a third of the expenditure be on development at the end of the financial year.
Only five counties had reached this threshold by the end of March. These were Marsabit (38 per cent), Mandera (37 per cent), Murang’a (32 per cent), Kwale (30.8 per cent) and Kilifi (30.2 per cent).
During this period, executives and MCAs doubled the money they spend on travelling, with the 47 counties combined using Sh14.88 billion in the first nine months to March 31, 2019, to hobnob from one high-end local hotel to another one overseas.
The national government- ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs)- saw its spending on domestic and foreign travels during the same period increase by 38 per cent from Sh8.6 billion to Sh11.9 billion. However, its absorption rate for development funds was far better than county governments’.
For every Sh100 that MDAs received for development spending from the Henry Rotich-led ministry, they utilised Sh61 to refurbish old buildings, putting up offices and other non-residential houses, building bridges and roads.
Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo echoed what has since become county chiefs’ line of defence for the poor absorption rate, noting that among some challenges counties experienced during this period was “delays in the disbursement of equitable share by the National Treasury.”
Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya has in the past blamed Treasury for making it hard for counties to spend on development. According to the Kakamega Governor, in the first months of a financial year, the budget line on development spending in the Integrated Financial Management Information System (Ifmis) is normally closed.
“At this time, Treasury is only releasing money for wages. You can’t divert the money to anything else because you have to pay salaries,” said Oparanya, noting that this was Treasury’s ways of containing spending.
“It’s like we are being micro-managed from Nairobi,” said Mr Oparanya. He said when development lines are closed, counties can only pay pending bills from previous financial years which is done through “auto-creation.”
Slightly over half of the county governments’ spending during this period was gobbled up by salaries and allowances. Of the Sh230 billion that counties spent during this period, Sh120.5 billion was used to pay salaries to county employees.
About a third of the spending went to operations and maintenance, with development activities being left with the remaining 20 per cent.
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