ON THE SPOT

Counties splurge millions on travel despite Covid restrictions — report

Kajiado, Siaya, Bungoma, Tana River, Nairobi, Machakos and Meru are the biggest spenders

In Summary
  • MCAs continue to pocket millions of shillings in sitting allowances despite the scaled down activities during the period under review.
  • Laikipia and Homa Bay MCAs and their speakers took home the highest amount in sitting allowances.
Former Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya with colleagues address the press in Naivasha on November 10, 2020.
Former Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya with colleagues address the press in Naivasha on November 10, 2020.
Image: GEORGE MURAGE

County governments are spending millions of taxpayers’ money on travel despite the tough economic times caused by Covid-19. 

Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o says in a new report that counties are spending millions of shillings on non-essentials such as travel. 

The budget implementation review report for the 47 counties for the nine months of the financial year was released on Tuesday. 

It shows that MCAs are pocketing millions in sitting allowances, some exceeding the cap set by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.

“Despite the protocol to contain the spread of Covid-19 disease, the Office of the Controller of Budget noted high expenditure on local travel and subsistence,” the report reads in part.

The report listed Kajiado, Siaya, Bungoma, Tana River, Nairobi, Machakos and Meru as the biggest spenders on travel and per diem allowances. 

Kajiado spent Sh333.14 million, Siaya Sh332.55 million, Bungoma Sh313.15 million and Tana River Sh303.04 million on travel alone in nine months.

Nairobi City, Machakos, Meru, Kitui, Kiambu, Kisii and Nyeri spent Sh297.97 million, Sh283.40 million, Sh264.09 million, Sh249.63 million, Sh245.10 million, Sh213.69 million and Sh202.23 million respectively.

The profligate spending is significant because the government imposed stringent measures, including lockdowns and travel bans, to contain the spread of the virus last year.

“In order to contain the spread of the Covid-19, the National government developed guidelines that restricted the movement of persons and promoted the use of virtual meetings and working from home for non-critical government services,” the COB noted in her report.

“This implied that government officers were limited in the number of activities they could undertake, requiring physical meetings such as workshops and seminars.” 

The counties have also been on the National Treasury’s case for delaying cash disbursement, thus stalling their operations.

Governors have twice threatened to shut down the counties for lack of funds owing to the disbursement delays.

Nyakang’o recommended to the county treasuries to review expenditure on travel and subsistence allowances to ensure the cost is credible.

She also suggested to the treasuries to institute control measures to curtail such expenditures to avoid wasteful spending.

“Article 201 of the Constitution requires that public money shall be used in a prudent and responsible way,” Nyakang’o says in the report that could trigger public uproar.

MCA also pocketed millions of shillings in sitting allowances despite the scaled down activities during the period under review.

Laikipia and Homa Bay MCAs and their speakers took home the highest amount in sitting allowances.

On average, each of the 61 MCAs in Homa Bay took home Sh183, 443 per month for nine months while those in Laikipia pocketed Sh192,470 besides their basic salaries and other allowances.

Other county assemblies that spent huge sums on sitting allowances are Kwale with Sh119,386 for each of its 31 MCAs, Busia whose 54 ward reps got Sh109,458 per month each and Migori which spent Sh109,214 on each of the 57 MCAs.

In Siaya, each of the 43 MCAs took home Sh107,095 in sitting allowances per month, those in Kakamega pocketed Sh106,584 each and Vihiga ward reps earned Sh101,265 in allowances per month per person.

The expenditure is far much beyond the recommended monthly ceiling of Sh124,800 by the SRC. 

Overall, expenditure on allowances reduced marginally from Sh1.62 billion the year before to Sh1.49 billion.

According to the report, the counties spent Sh221.39 billion during the period, representing 44.2 per cent of the total annual county governments' budgets.

Recurrent expenditure was Sh172.93 billion and development took up Sh48.45 billion, representing an absorption rate of 25 per cent.

-Edited by SKanyara