The continuing standoff over National Treasury allocation to counties for the fiscal year 2019/20 casts perilous shadow over devolved units operations.
The mandate to allocate national resources including to counties rests with the National Assembly. The latter, however, is locked in a stalemate with their Senate counterparts over amount to be released. Whereas the MPs have prescribed Sh310 billion, the Senate insists the figure should be Sh327 billion and cite formula worked out by the Commission on Revenue Allocation.
By the time Treasury Cabinet secretary was presenting his budgetary proposals last week, the two parties remained deadlocked, giving the CS no option but to present the figure endorsed by the House Budget Committee with the probability of subsequent Supplementary budget to later bridge the deficit.
Yesterday’s intervention by the Inter-governmental Budget and Economic Council which was slated to be chaired by Deputy President William Ruto failed to tackle the sticky issues because the differences could not be bridged, prompting him to instead call for an informal gathering to chart the way forward.
There is grave concern on the futility of the intransigence by the protagonists. The MPs and Treasury must be alive to demands and burdens of counties and the stance of senators.
But having said that, it’s also vital that counties become much more accountable. The Auditor General’s 2018/19 financial year report on counties made heart-sinking statement, pointing to pervasive ethical environment of weak governance, insufficient financial controls, poor projects planning but above all, alarming graft.
It’s true that upon inception six years ago, the absence of infrastructure to effectively run counties constituted a big hurdle which meant challenges in planning, resource deployment and allocation. This is no longer the case. Too many governors, county executives and MCAs are in breach of accounting procedures. It torpedoes the objective of making counties truly transformative.
Not long ago, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission raided homes of a governor and top county officials as they moved to unravel suspected embezzlement of funds.
What their investigations unearthed amounts to nothing short of plunder. Several governors are on the radar of the investigative agencies over graft and reckless procurement and awarding contracts bereft of integrity and transparency.