Senators have censured governors for misappropriating public funds while debating the monthly disbursement schedule of the Sh370 billion equitable share to counties.
The legislators also pushed for County Assembly financial autonomy, saying it’s the primary oversight institution of the county government.
They demanded that National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani disburses Sh62 billion, outstanding funds for the two months of the current financial year, be released in one week after passage of the County Governments Cash Disbursement Schedule for the FY 2021/2022.
Led by the committee on finance and budget chairman Senator Charles Kibiru, they took issue with delays in releasing the monthly trenches to counties resulting in huge pending bills, stalled projects and poor absorption of funds.
As per the schedule, Nairobi City County will get the lion share of Sh19.2 billion, after Nakuru with Sh13 billion, Turkana Sh12.6 billion, Kiambu Sh11.7billion, Kilifi Sh11.6 billion and Mandera Sh11.2 billion.
Counties getting the least include Lamu Sh3.1 billion, Tharaka/Nithi 4.2 billion, Elgeyo/Marakwet Sh4.6 billion, Isiolo 4.7 billion and Taita/Taveta Sh4.8 billion.
“We will be getting quarterly updates on the monthly releases. We will be inviting the CS to confirm and table reports on the releases for counties to finance their operations,” said Kibiru.
The Kirinyaga Senator tabled the report, which will now compel the National Treasury to release Sh62 billion owed to counties for the last two months, in a week’s time.
“Funds must be used optimally and we must get value for money. Governors must account for the same. Similarly, the National Treasury Should never ever delay disbursement of funds to counties because of lack of funds, it should get an overdraft from Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), after all this is where all the monies would be going,” said Senator Kibiru.
He added, “We will be soon tabling amendments to the Public Finance Management (PFM) Act seeking financial autonomy of the County Assemblies. The Assemblies must be independent to oversight use of funds by the county Executive.”
Kibiru said the proposal will also include a push to have single Treasury account where all funds will go.
“In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 17 (6) & (7) of the Public Financial Management Act, 2012, the CS for the National Treasury and Planning in consultation with the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council (IBEC) and with approval of the Senate, publishes the amounts to county governments in Financial Year 2021/2022,” reads Ambassador Yatani’s cash schedule.
The CS said the disbursement is for the period July, 2021 to June, 2022 with effect from the 15th July, 2021 as specified in the schedule.
The lawmakers, while backing the schedule faulted governors for not calling out the State over delays.
“The delay in disbursement is a clear violation of Article 219 of the constitution. It is not a favour. The CS has submitted the schedule 38 days after the passage of the County Allocation of Revenue Act (CARA), which should be within 15 days,” said Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei.
He faulted, “This is affecting the counties’ calendar. Counties in Northern frontiers are suffering from drought now yet they could have used the funds to mitigate the same by getting relief foods, supplemented by the Equalization funds.”
Senators Moses Wetang’ula (Bungoma), Getrude Musuruve (nominated), Hargura Godana (Marsabit) and Ochilo Ayacko (Migori) also criticised the piecemeal release of funds to counties as well as conduct of governors in appropriating the funds.
“To safeguard counties they should be properly resourced. Counties are supposed to get monthly trenches by 15th yet they are owed Sh93 billion by the 15th of this month,” said Godana.
He added, “This is sabotage and a plot to undermine devolution.” Musuruve stressed that devolved functions must be accompanied by resources, failure of which service delivery will be hampered.
Wetang’ula said the delays have negative impact in the counties and the CS should be held to account as well as governors using funds as private entities.
“There is theft and misuse of funds in the counties by governors and their cohorts yet devolution was a gift in the 2010 constitution to devolve power and resources to the people. The public should not suffer,” said Wetangula.
He recalled, “There was a standoff in the Third Generation formula with 12 attempts resulting in the Sh370 billion allocation. It is sad that the NT and governors’ action inflict pain on ordinary Kenyans who require services. Those entrusted with the resources are stealing it and bringing it to buy prestigious properties in Nairobi.”
He said disbursement just like use of funds should not be treated casually.
“MCAs are held at ransom by oppressive governors when their primary role is to oversight them by withhold their salaries and allowances. They governors blackmail them. We must free the MCAs from the clutches of greedy governors who think they own the county and everything. He who pays the pipe plays the tune.”
Ayacko, who is also the County Public Accounts and Investment Committee (CPAIC) chair expressed concerns that Auditor General Nancy Gathungu’s reports on counties are mainly on pending bills, stalled projects and un-used funds.
“Counties staff have gone without salaries for months as services disrupted by the delays. Contractors have been blacklisted by banks and some died from stress for failing to service their loans and funds returned to Treasury by June 30th due to delayed releases,” he noted.
Baringo – 6,369,394,592
Bomet – 6,691,099,118
Bungoma – 10,659,435,192
Busia – 7,172,162,009
Elgeyo/Marakwet – 4,606,532,480
Embu – 5,125,243,762
Garissa – 7,927,212,254
Homa Bay – 7,805353,300
Isiolo – 4,710,388,265
Taita Taveta 4,842,174,698
Tana River 6,528,408,765
Tharaka Nithi 4,214,198,593
Trans Nzoia 7,186,157,670
Uasin Gishu 8,068,858,318
West Pokot 6,297,284,329?