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February 22, 2019

Zero expenditure on projects as salaries gobble up county funds

Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo. /FILE
Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo. /FILE

Travel, staff salaries and uncontrolled sitting allowances for MCAs risk stagnating development in Northeastern counties.

A report by Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo covering July to September 2018 shows that Garissa, Mandera, Marsabit, and Wajir counties spent zero on development.

According to the County Budget Implementation Review Report, 24 devolved units did not spend a penny on development projects.

In the same period, the 47 counties used Sh50 billion on salaries and office operations. At least Sh79.3 billion had been disbursed by then.

Northeastern counties are strained by shortage of water, food, poor roads and unstable supply of medicine – a situation residents hoped would be solved by devolution.

In the case of Garissa, Odhiambo flagged uncontrolled hiring of workers as the reason for the imbalance in the recurrent and development expenditures.

She asked the county’s public service board to establish an optimal staffing structure to ensure a sustainable wage bill.

Garissa’s total recurrent expenditure of Sh1.06 billion comprised of Sh981.35 million ( 91.8 per cent) incurred on salaries and Sh88.77 million ( 8.2 per cent) on operations and maintenance.

Wajir spent Sh620.66 million on salaries and Sh85 million to run offices.

Medical supplies took the largest chunk at Sh30 million, followed by fuel at Sh25.43 million whereas domestic travel gobbled up Sh14 million.

Odhiambo raised the alarm over the county’s under-performance in revenue collection

The revenue declined by 69.9 per cent from Sh21.57 million in the first quarter of 2017-18 to Sh12.69 million in the reporting period.

“Failure by the county treasury to deposit all own source revenue collection to the county revenue fund as required hampered effective budget implementation,” the budget controller said.

Mandera had Sh2.95 billion in its accounts in the period under review, none of which was spent on growth projects.

The county instead spent Sh579 million on salaries and a further Sh80 million on staff medical insurance.

Some Sh46.6 million was used to run subcounty hospitals, Sh12 million on domestic travel and Sh11.62 million on sanitation programmes.

The budget controller, however, blamed the National Treasury, citing delays in disbursement of county cash.

“Failure by the National Treasury to disburse the equitable share of revenue raised nationally affected implementation of development programmes in Mandera,” she said.

In Marsabit, the county’s 2018-19 approved budget was Sh7.82 billion, comprising of Sh4.06 billion ( 51.9 per cent) and Sh3.76 billion ( 48.1 per cent) allocation for recurrent and development expenditure respectively.

The county had received Sh1.12 billion during the first quarter of the financial year 2018/19.

“The entire release was for recurrent expenditure. There was no exchequer disbursement in the comparative period of financial year 2017-18,” the budget controller said.

The report reveals that Marsabit staff spent Sh48.87 million on domestic travel. Of that amount Sh18.34 million was spent by the county assembly and Sh30.53 million by the executive.

Odhiambo further cited delay in the approval of the County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) for 2018-2022 saying this may hinder effective planning and budgeting.

In the reporting period, counties that executed development spent a paltry Sh3.51 billion, translating to 6.9 per cent of the disbursed cash.

This represented an absorption rate of two per cent of the annual development budget. This was an improvement from 0.9 per cent reported in a similar period of the 2017-18 financial year.

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