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Counties’ budget process remains opaque and exclusionary

A budget process refers to the process by which governments create and approve a budget, which is as follows: ... The completed budgets are presented by the managers to their Executive Officers for review and approval. Justification of the budget request may be required in writing.

By Steve Umidha

Most Kenyans remain in the dark on how County budgets are formulated and executed, according to new research findings.

The survey, Kenya county budget transparency survey 2020 released last Friday also reveals that the majority of County governments are publishing ‘blind’ budgets and are doing so inconsistently and are availing less than half – about 40 percent of the budget documents they are legally mandated to publish in one financial year.

As a result, the report also found that most citizens are being exposed to lack of access to information on budgeted projects within their communities – while a budget containing technical jargon means that most Kenyans are unable to understand the budget and are, therefore, limited in their ability to monitor budget progress in counties.

“The average County Budget Transparency Score in this round of the survey is 33 out of 100 points, which means many counties are not publishing key budget documents. When they do, the information these documents contain is not comprehensive,” notes the report.

For instance the report noted that For example, over the last three consecutive County budgets between 2018 and 2020 financial periods, only five counties Elgeyo-Marakwet, Laikipia, Kilifi, Nyeri, and Nakuru, have consistently published their Approved Programme-Based Budgets on their websites, and only Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Kiambu, Laikipia, and West Pokot, consistently published their quarterly budget implementation reports across all four quarters.

The report further shows that most counties do not provide information on the opportunities for public participation. Besides, they also do not provide information on what views were taken up and how they informed the shaping of published budget documents.

“Often, even where documents are published, they lack the types of information that law requires counties to publish,” it said in part.

Since 2015, the International Budget Partnership Kenya (IBP Kenya) has been carrying out a bi-annual survey to assess the public availability of key budget documents at Kenya’s sub-national level.

In 2020 IBP Kenya rolled out a comprehensive survey which is carried out together with civil society organizations that are based in the counties assessing the public availability of key county budget documents and contents of the budget document provided by counties.

The County Budget Transparency Survey (CBTS) 2020 looks at key budget documents required to be produced by counties through the 2019/20 Financial Year and the types of information disclosed.

The research for CBTS 2020 covered Kenya’s 47 counties and was supported by 21 researchers drawn from civil society organizations across 19 counties.

The survey comes amid plans to increase revenue allocation to Counties in a new political vehicle which will see County Governments receive improved revenue allocation from the national government if recommendations made in the final Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report are adopted.

The BBI report which was last week passed by Members of Parliament (MPs) wants the County Revenue allocation increased from the current 15 percent of the national share to 35 percent. It also awaits the endorsement of the Senate before it progresses to a referendum.

If the proposal is adopted at the upcoming referendum, then Counties will receive more money on top of the Sh316.5 billion they have received in the last financial years which governors argue will enhance service delivery, even though most of those funds have either been misappropriated or looted by County officials.

While there are no official data showing how much is exactly lost through corruption at County levels, the value of government funds stolen through corrupt deals in Kenya by state and public officers has been growing in the last few years.

“Unless there are proper financial control systems, we will not get it right. But you don’t also fight corruption by using political systems where some alleged corrupt individuals are arrested, then you don’t hear of the case after several months or years. We have to condemn this practice,” said Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya in a previous interview with this writer.

Funds stolen by state officials rose to Sh140.2 billion ($1.4 billion) in 2019 from Sh67.1 billion ($671 million) in 2017, according to the annual report by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP) for 2020.

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