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January 16, 2019

Fund devolution to make it work

Fund devolution
Fund devolution

For four years before the last election, I worked in the government of Kiambu as the Youth and Sports executive. I was privileged to see first-hand the fruits of devolution and how properly managed funds can impact the lives of the residents significantly.

There were many times I had an idea of executing a project I knew would leave a lasting legacy but was unable to do so because of funding constraints. Most of the time, funding from the national government would trickle in inconsistently and this would limit project delivery because planning was very difficult.

Last week, I was keenly watching as the Council of Governors gave this year’s State of Devolution report. Interestingly, they again talked of things that I am very familiar with and that need to be sorted out to make devolution even more successful.

Key among them was the call on Treasury to ensure counties are not only well-funded but money is also disbursed on time. With six years of devolution, this tug of war on funding should be a thing of the past.

The CoG highlighted the key challenges in public finance including Ifmis and E-procurement connectivity, under-performance in local revenue collection, high wage bill that may affect implementation of development projects and delay in disbursement of funds by the National Treasury.

The issue raised by the governors on Ifmis and E-procurement connectivity challenges must be sorted out to ensure all matters of revenue collection and expenditure run smoothly.

Many times, the county governments come under intense criticism from the public over what appears to be underperformance. And while the counties are partly guilty, the national government has to shoulder some of the blame.

With our annual budget going past Sh2 trillion, giving counties less than half a trillion, as is the case, is underfunding them and we must improve.

Treasury must also work extra hard to prioritise devolution and ensure that devolved funds are disbursed on time. This way, governors will have no excuses for failure to deliver for Wanjiku.

Funding counties late can also breed corruption. Counties have not received their full allocation and will be required to spend their remaining allocation before the end of June. Such unpreparedness will cause them to spend quickly, cutting corners and breeding corruption. It was refreshing to see the county chiefs commit to continue instituting measures to cut on recurrent expenditure and adopt innovative strategies to increase own-source revenue to enhance budget allocation for development.

Once counties are able to collect their own revenue adequately, governors will have little room to complain about underfunding or delay in disbursement.

It was worthwhile to note that governors said they are involved in an ongoing exercise spearheaded by the National Treasury about identifying the revenue potential for each county to enable them make sound revenue forecasts.

The Commission on Revenue Allocation has in the last two financial years recommended the inclusion of funds for public participation through the Division of Revenue Bill. There is no reason why the National Treasury has continued to reject this, while public participation can enhance and localise county budgets.

Public participation must be enforced so mwananchi has a say on the projects that they want completed, and what should be prioritised. Counties must also remember public participation is a continuous journey, not a destination.

Governors also noted there have been challenges in getting approvals for budgets, as well as personnel by county assemblies. MCAs must remember they are part of devolution and should work to enhance performance.

All in all, devolution is working and must be supported from all corners for the benefit of the public.


Political and communications consultant

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