County budgets opaque, lack public input – survey

The devolved units set to get Sh370 billion as equitable share in 2021/22.

In Summary

•West Pokot, Laikipia, Nyeri, Makueni and Samburu were the top five, most transparent in the budget-making process for the current financial year ending June 30.

•Kirinyaga, Narok, Taita Taveta and Wajir each scored zero as they provided no information at all.

The Nairobi county assembly/FILE
The Nairobi county assembly/FILE

Kenyans still have limited participation and information on county budgets, a survey by the International Budget Partnership Kenya (IBP-Kenya) shows.

This, it says,  leads to non-inclusive spending priorities and allocations tin public projects, according to the Kenya County Budget Transparency Survey.

Out of the 43 counties surveyed, West Pokot, Nyeri, Laikipia, Makueni, Samburu, Turkana, and Elgeyo Marakwet, qualified for the second-highest performance category, scoring B.

Most counties fell under the last two categories of D and E.

West Pokot, Laikipia, Nyeri, Makueni and Samburu were the top five, most transparent in the budget-making process for the current financial year ending June 30, the report notes.

Nairobi is ranked 16th with the least performers being Nandi, Lamu, Bomet, Migori and Busia.

Kirinyaga, Narok, Taita Taveta and Wajir each scored zero as they provided no information at all.

“These counties published none of the 11 budget documents evaluated during the survey,” IBP says.

An overall consolidation of the results on the availability of budget documents and their comprehensiveness reveals a bleak picture, as the average County Budget Transparency Index score was captured at 33 out of 100.

“This is a clear indication that counties do not provide sufficient budget information, and where budget documents are published, they often lack essential budget information required for meaningful citizen engagement,” the report states.

The CBTS 2020 finds a marginal increase in the number of documents published by counties on their official websites, which implies that Kenya's subnational budget transparency has stagnated in general.

The survey shows that counties are not consistent in the documents they make available to the public as many counties stopped publishing some budget documents which they had previously published.

For instance, the Programme-Based Budget is the premier budget document that gives all information regarding allocations for each programme to be carried out in the county budget.

Over the last three consecutive County Budget Transparency Surveys, only five counties-Elgeyo-Marakwet, Laikipia, Kilifi, Nyeri, and Nakuru, have consistently published their approved Programme-Based Budgets online.

Budget implementation information suffers a similar fate. Only five counties of Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Kiambu, Laikipia, and West Pokot, consistently published their quarterly budget implementation reports across all four quarters.

Even so, budget documents frequently lack specific details of budget information needed to monitor service delivery.

A majority of the assessed county budget documents did not include critical information, such as details on revenue and non-financial information on budget implementation. Other documents failed to incorporate the basic minimum accounting standards, such as the disaggregation of recurrent and development expenditure details.

“A key challenge in this area was also inconsistencies in the provision of budget information

by counties. For example, a county would provide revenue information in their approved ProgrammeBased Budget and fail to report revenue performance progress in the subsequent documents such as the Quarterly Budget Implementation Report,” IBP says.

The Constitution of Kenya, 2010 and the core implementing laws and regulations such as the

County Governments Act, 2012, the Public Finance Management Act, 2012, and other subsidiary legislation mandate a certain level of transparency, accountability, and public participation in budget formulation, implementation, evaluation, and auditing.

However, budget transparency and access to information remain key challenges both at the national and county level.

In the current financial year, county governments have a cumulative budget of Sh316.5 billion.

The Commission on Revenue Allocation in January endorsed President Uhuru Kenyatta’s pledge to allocate county governments an additional Sh53.5 billion in the 2021-22 financial year, starting July 1, where the country’s proposed spending stands at Sh2.968 trillion.

This will take the counties' allocation to Sh370 billion, as equitable share.

The allocation is out of the projected shareable revenue of Sh1.81 trillion and projected Road Maintenance Levy Fund of Sh65.13 billion.

Articles 216(1) (a) and 203 (1) of the Constitution mandates the commission to recommend to Parliament the vertical (between National and County governments) and horizontal (among counties) sharing of revenues generated nationally.

In September, the President pledged the additional allocation, ending months of standoff in the senate over the third generation formula.

Uhuru said the additional allocation will go towards strengthening devolution.

However, his pledge was pegged on the performance of revenue collection by the Kenya Revenue Authority.