EDITORIAL: Save counties from the burden of excessive recurrent expenditure

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A recent report revealing that some counties are spending up to 70% of their budgets on salaries and allowances is troubling.

This disclosure by the Controller of Budget to the Senate Finance and Budget Committee is a stark contrast to the regulations set by the Public Finance Management Regulations of 2015, which caps spending by counties on salaries and allowances at 35%.

Kisii County’s position as the top offender in this regard is deeply concerning and symbolic of a systemic issue plaguing several counties.

The essence of devolution was to empower local governments to drive development at the grassroots level, yet this pattern of excessive spending on recurrent costs severely undermines the intended purpose.

County governors have often shifted blame, attributing the ballooning wage bill to staff inherited from defunct local councils and those seconded from the national government. However, this explanation, while partly valid, does not absolve them of responsibility.

There’s a prevailing perception that county administrations are functioning more like employment agencies than entities dedicated to fostering development and service delivery.

What’s equally troubling is the revelation that only a handful of counties have directed a significant portion of their budgets towards development. With just seven out of 47 counties allocating more than 30% of their budgets to development, it is evident that the fundamental objective of devolution is being undermined.

This pattern demands urgent rectification. It’s imperative that county governments prioritize development-oriented expenditures, and embrace strategies to strike a balance between recurrent costs and investment in critical infrastructure and services.

While government jobs may be important in empowering local communities, they were never the reason why Kenyans elected to have the devolved units, which are in themselves quite expensive to run.

It is time we rethink this plan, for devolution to make sense.

Copy by Fred Indimuli- host Morning Cafe show

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