Puzzle of Corona billions as vulnerable groups cry foul

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020 00:00 |
Vulnerable groups cry foul.

Seth Onyango @SethManex

Questions have emerged over the use of funds set a side to cushion vulnerable groups from the economic pangs of Covid-19 amid claims of a Sh230 million budgetary increment.

In a memorandum to the National Assembly budget and appropriations committee, more than 100 experts have highlighted glaring inconsistencies, including the allocations of funds towards the National Safety Net Programme (NSNP).

International Budget Partnership Kenya in a review shows that allocations to the NSNP jumped 28.7 per cent (Sh8.7 billion more) to Sh38.8 billion in the second supplementary budget in April 2020.

But, allocations to the programme have shrunk from 25.9 per cent (Sh10.1 billion) to Sh28.8 billion in the 2020/21 estimates compared with the 2019/20 second supplementary budget.

“The reduction in allocation may have negative implications on the number of vulnerable people reached through the programme as the effects of coronavirus pandemic may last for a better part of 2020/21,” reads the epistle by Expertise Global Consulting (EGC) in part.

It comes even as the poor and other vulnerable groups continue to decry lack of support from the government despite billions being pumped toward the corona relief kitty.

It casts a spotlight on the Labour ministry which is tasked to coordinate the disbursement of the funds amid questions about the criteria used to identify beneficiaries.

The Budget Policy Statement 2020 had set a ceiling for the National Safety Net programme at Sh28.57 billion with a funding gap of Sh14.1 billion 2020/21.

But EGC noted the 2020/21 allocations to the kitty, exceeds the ceiling marginally by Sh230 million, yet no explanation or justification has been provided as required by the PFM Act.

At the same time, the expenditure of the social protection sector exceeded the exchequer issues between 2015/16 to 2018/19.

Questions also abound on how the sector has been able to spend more than what it receives.

New audit queries come barely a fortnight after MPs put Labour Principal Secretary Nelson Marwa on the spot over the list of NSNP beneficiaries.

Budgets commitee

MPs were perplexed to learn that Marwa was not the custodian of the list of beneficiaries despite the programme falling under his ambit  and instead with the Interior ministry.

About 114 experts including top economists and financial gurus prepared the report that was submitted to the budgets commitee last week.

EGC further noted that of the Sh28.8 billion allocated to the NSNP, Sh26.2 billion will be used for the cash transfer programmes.

“However, there is no breakdown in the line item budgets on how the allocation will be distributed among the three cash transfer programmes to ensure accountability and that each group of vulnerable people receives a fair share of the allocation,” reads the report in part.

A comparison of the estimated resource requirements in the medium-term expenditure framework/social sector report for 2020/21-2022/23 and the allocations shows that the National Safety Net programme has a funding gap of Sh14.1 billion for 2020/21.

EGC said huge funding gaps is likely to limit the number of vulnerable people/households who can be reached through the programme.

According to the medium-term expenditure framework (Mtef), the number of households with older persons and households with people with severe disabilities supported through the NSNP is expected to increase by 100,000 and 47,000 respectively.

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