By GRIFFINS OMWENGA
Billions of shillings meant for counties are lying unspent at the Central Bank less than a month before the devolved units are allocated more money in the next budget.
The counties had in total more than Sh66 billion lying in their respective accounts as of Friday last week, raising questions about whether they have the capacity to absorb the funds.
Out of the total, Sh44 billion is money collected by the counties as fees or commission and the balance is allocation from the national Government.
A report on county spending released by the Treasury and the controller of budget indicated that the devolved units had received Sh158 billion in total so far, but they had only spent slightly more than half of the funds as of the end of last week.
Though the report does not indicate how the money was used, Nairobi County emerged the best spender, with a balance of Sh110 million out of Sh6.7 billion it has received so far.
Other best spenders were Bomet, Machakos, Murang’a, Nakuru and Nyeri, which have bank balances of Sh539 million, 407 million, 693 million, 861 million and 640 million respectively. These counties met the 25 per cent first-quarter absorption target.
HIGHEST BANK BALANCE
Mandera had the highest bank balance, having used only 30 per cent or Sh1.8 billion out of Sh5.9 billion allocated to it. The county has Sh4.1 billion lying idle in its account.
Governor Ali Ibrahim Roba said that almost all the money has been committed to various development projects.
“Most of the money is for paying road contractors and developers of various public amenities in the county and this is still work in progress that will be paid after the work has been accomplished,” said Mr Roba.
Mandera received the third-highest allocation after Nairobi and Turkana.
On its part, Turkana County spent almost half of its allocation. It used Sh3 billion out of the Sh6.8 billion it received.
Other counties that had more than Sh2 billion in their accounts are Bungoma, Garissa, Kilifi, Kitui and Meru.
Baringo, Busia, Embu, Homabay, Kisii, Kisumu, Kwale, Migori, Mombasa, Nandi, Narok, Nyamira , Siaya, Tana River Uasin Gishu, Vihiga and West Pokot have on average Sh1.2 billion lying unspent in their current and development accounts.
A report from the controller of budget, Agnes Odhiambo, said counties failed to use more than Sh27 billion allocated to them during their first quarter of business. Twenty seven counties failed to spend any money on development. They did not request money for projects, according to Mrs Odhiambo.
“This low uptake could be attributed to the failure of most counties to meet the conditions set for the release of funds as stipulated in the Public Financial Management Act, 2012,” said Mrs Odhiambo in the report.
It was established then that while some counties had well-formulated and balanced budgets, others had deficits, unrealistic estimates or allocations for unauthorised items.
Meanwhile, the council of governors has called for the amendment of article 203 of the Constitution to increase allocation to the counties to a minimum of 40 per cent of the national revenue, up from the current minimum of 15 per cent.
“There is growing recognition of the importance of the national government to increase the allocation of revenue to counties. To do so, we may be required to amend the Constitution to guarantee national revenue flow,” said the governors in an advertisement Friday