Amidst reports of fund misuse and misappropriation, the Financial Year 2017/2018 was not a smooth ride for several counties in terms of expenditure. Where others seemed to have gotten their act together, others faced various challenges in terms of budget implementation and whereas others breached the public finance management framework.
All the 47 counties used a total of 303.83 billion shillings for various purposes. This was broken down into 236.94 billion shillings for recurrent expenditure (87.3 percent of the annual recurrent budget), and 66.89 billion shillings for development expenditure (48.1 percent of the annual development budget).
According to the 2017/2018 Controller of Budget report, the total expenditure was 74 percent of the aggregated annual county governments’ budgets during the period under review.
The report notes that the counties with the highest overall budget absorption rates were; Kiambu at 85.5 percent, Marsabit at 85 percent, and Laikipia at 84.2 percent.
Those that recorded the lowest rate of absorption included Nakuru, Tana River, and Vihiga counties at 59.3, 53.7, and 48.5 percent respectively.
A focus on the development expenditure showed that Mombasa, Marsabit, Kilifi and Murang’a registered the best absorption rate at 76, 74, 73.1, and 72.5 percent respectively. Kisumu, Wajir, Vihiga, and Taita Taveta with rates of 23.6, 22.9, 17.5, and 12.7 percent, respectively, had the lowest absorption rate.
The overall absorption rate in development expenditure was a decline from the 65.3 percent, reported in FY 2016/17 when the total development expenditure stood at 103.34 billion shillings.
Mandera County led in terms of total expenditure for development purposes at 3.89 billion shillings. Kakamega, Kitui, and Kilifi followed closely 3.88 billion, 3.28 billion, and 3.12 billion shillings respectively.
Those that hit above 2-billion mark in total development expenditure include Mombasa, Marsabit, Murang’a, Nairobi, and Kwale with 2.90, 2.54, 2.20, 2.18, and 2.14 billion shillings respectively.
A total of 20 counties used above 1 billion shillings in development activities. The approximate expenditure and overall position in total expenditure ranking is as shown below:
Kericho, Baringo, West Pokot, Elgeyo Marakwet, and Tana River spent 996.24, 987.44, 983.31, 948.90, and 918.61 million shillings respectively.
Counties like Nyandarua, Bomet, Wajir, Meru, Siaya, Kirinyaga, Nandi, and Kisumu weren’t far off behind. They respectively spent 895.37, 873.53, 842.54, 812.68, 777.57, 722.27, 716.91 and 669.36 million shillings for development activities.
Consecutively, Samburu spent a total of 549.02 million shillings with Nyamira spending 527.66 million shillings.
Closing the list of the 47 counties were those that spent the lowest in development expenditure. They include Lamu, Vihiga and Taita Taveta at 361.27, 297.47, and 206.45 million shillings, respectively
In retrospect, Turkana is the only county that has spent the most since devolution began in 2013. However, much of the developments remain incomplete, which is why the overview of the expenditure cannot be derived from the living standards of people.
On average, Turkana’s development to total expenditure ratio stands at 58 percent compared to Mandera which has spent 53 percent in the past half a decade to FY 2017/2018.
An analysis of the report shows that counties under the Arid and Semi-Arid Land (ASAL) have overshadowed other counties in allocating most of their funds to development projects. Wajir and Marsabit are also among the ones on top.
How much investment is made in key areas such as infrastructure and health largely determines the economic growth of a country. If anything, the total expenditure on development across the 47 counties gives a bearing on how Kenya is faring regarding infrastructure.
This comes at a time when another Controller of Budget report for the first quarter of the 2018/2019 financial year showed that 14 counties spent nothing on development.
The counties include Kirinyaga, Kisumu, Embu, Garissa, Meru, Nakuru, Nandi, Nyandarua and Nyeri Counties. Others are Siaya, Taita-Taveta, Tharaka-Nithi, Vihiga, and West Pokot.
The report says that these 14 counties spent funds allocated on recurrent expenditure including paying salaries, sitting allowances, and trips of county officials and MCAs.
The implications of such actions are that it amounts to stifled investments, which denies the economy the proper drive it needs to grow. Clearly, more elaborate measures and conspicuous development expenditure policies need to be implemented to dictate or to set goals that should be achieved. Otherwise, funds will continue being misappropriated and spent on unseen projects.