FINANCIAL CRUNCH

State out to kill devolution, says Oparanya

Says lack of funds has disrupted operations in the devolved units, yet the national government continues to operate normally.

In Summary

• Counties are paying salaries without remitting statutory deductions such as NHIF and NSSF among others required by law due to cash crunch.

• Oparanya reiterated that counties lack the financial capacity to meet the demands by striking health workers.

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya at Malava subcounty headquarters on January 12, 2021. He launched training of community areas council members
Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya at Malava subcounty headquarters on January 12, 2021. He launched training of community areas council members
Image: HILTON OTENYO

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya has accused the national government of planning to kill devolution by starving the counties of cash.

He said the National Treasury has starved counties of funds, disrupting operations in the devolved units, yet the national government continues to operate normally.

The Council of Governors chairman said on Tuesday that the National Treasury owes counties Sh70 billion since October 2020.

"We are facing a lot of financial challenges because we do not have money. Contractors and suppliers are on our necks demanding their payments, yet we are unable to pay them," Oparanya said.

Observers have continued to ask if the proposal in the BBI to increase allocation to counties to 35 per cent from the current 15 per cent would benefit the devolved units if disbursement of the funds at the moment is still a challenge.

Oparanya said it was unfortunate that while national government staff are paid salaries, some devolved units are left to depend on bank overdrafts.

Counties are struggling to pay salaries without remitting statutory deductions such as NHIF and NSSF among others required by law due to the cash crunch.

Oparanya reiterated that counties lack the financial capacity to meet the demands by striking health workers.

He said the demands being made by doctors, nurses and clinical officers cannot be handled by counties due to financial constraints.

"Even if the strike lasts a whole year, we cannot meet the demands as counties. We are limited by funds, and we cannot lie to the unions that we will give them money when we know we cannot pay," Oparanya said.    

"Some issues can be solved through dialogue. Dialogue will save us from wasting a lot of time on strikes that affect service delivery."

Oparanya spoke when he launched training for community area council members in Malava subcounty. Community areas are the lowest administrative units by the county government.

Kakamega has become the first county to fully devolve to the grassroots.

"Sustaining devolved units up to the grassroots is very expensive and that is why most counties are unable to roll it out," Oparanya said.