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Tighten your belts, CS Rotich tells governors

Dinah Ondari @dinahondari

The State has instructed governors to cut spending on non-priority items to curb wastage amid revelation revenue collected has fallen by Sh84 billion in the current financial year (2017/18).

Treasury Cabinet secretary Henry Rotich announced that an average of Sh16 billion will be slashed from the Sh302 billion that was allocated to county governments in the current financial year.

The CS, who spoke yesterday while making submissions before the Senate Finance committee on the Division of Revenue Bill, said the national government has embraced a raft of austerity measures and county government should follow suit.

“In the national government we have started rationalisation, we have set limits on travel, hospital and other expenditure. We cannot as one level of government struggle while in the counties it is business as usual. Everyone should carry the burden of reduced allocation,” he said.

Earlier while making his presentation, Council of Governors (CoG) chairperson Josphat Nanok (Tu rkana) who was accompanied by his colleagues Joyce Laboso (Bomet) and Dhado Godana (Tana River) raised concerns that counties are struggling due to the delay by the State to remit funds.

Nanok told members of the Senator Mohamed Mohamud (Mandera) led committee that the government should also consider assisting the devolved units pay Sh11 billion they owe doctors following the signing of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

But responding to CoG, Rotich maintained that the government does not have money, advising the county governments to re-look into their budgets and ensure that they meet their key obligations, like the CBA.

“We cannot give more money because we don’t have it, unless we borrow or increase taxation which will be a problem. County governments have to live within the resources they have,” said Rotich.

Meanwhile, the Auditor-General has come under sharp criticism for failing to provide timely audit reports which provide basis for calculation of cash allocations to county governments.

While debating the Division of Revenue Bill (DOR) on Tuesday, Senators said the proposed allocation of Sh372 billion for the next financial year (2018/19) is based on the audited accounts of the 2014/15 financial year thus presents an inaccurate reflection of the the current reality.

“We cannot make informed recommendations because of the delay in getting these audit reports, this bill (Division of Revenue) is based on 2014/15 reports, going by this pace it means that the report for the current financial year will come in 2020,” said Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho).

Senator Moses Wetang’ula (Bungoma) and Mutula Kilonzo Jr (Makueni) questioned the rationale for increasing the conditional allocation for leasing of medical equipment from Sh4.5 billion to Shs 9.4 billion.

“How has this figure doubled even before we get an audit on which counties have received the equipment, how many are functional? Are we getting value ?” Wetang’ula posed. Kilonzo Jr also complained that implementation of projects funded by conditional grants had been transferred from counties to the National Hospital Insurance Fund, yet healthcare was a fully devolved function.

Senators were also concerned that only Sh1 billion had been allocated for the Strategic Grain Reserve as it was the lowest in the last five years.

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