Counties clamour for more cash untenable
Governors and members of county assemblies have formed a caucus to fight for the increase of allocations to counties to 45 per cent from 15 per cent of the audited revenue.
While the clamour is in line with the thinking that deepening devolution spreads the national cake evenly, the push raises concerns.
The general verdict on the utilisation of county funds is not flattering. The call to triple the allocations will, no doubt, be viewed against the prism of how governors have been spending resources since the onset of devolution in 2013.
Governors and county employees are on the spot regarding the utilisation of funds, with some being accused of stealing from the coffers or acting as conduits for shoddy deals.
It is understandable, therefore, if Kenyans will receive their call for more allocations with a lot of scepticism.
Besides misappropriation of funds, the hefty allowances that county leaders and employees are paid raise serious questions about their priorities.
For example, in the first quarter of the last financial year alone, counties spent Sh2.67 billion on domestic and foreign travel.
During that period, the Office of Controller of Budget revealed that 14 county assemblies had spent more on committee sitting allowances than the Salaries and Remuneration Commission recommended a monthly maximum of Sh80,000.
Such wanton spending on non-priority areas means expenditure on development suffers. In one of her reports, outgoing Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo revealed that several counties had not spent a single cent on development.
It is also worrying that as counties push for more money, they have been silent on where funding from own sources go amid concerns on whether the books paint the correct picture.
It is also unreasonable that the push for more cash comes at a time when Kenya’s debt has soared to Sh6 trillion and pending bills up to Sh300 million.
Counties should realise that piling financial pressure on the national government will adversely affect the economy.
If counties need more resources, the sensible thing to do is to practise financial prudence, including sealing the loopholes through which billions of shillings are siphoned every year.
Financial prudence at the two levels of government will reduce the country’s reliance on borrowed money and direct more funds to programmes that can spur growth.