Governors urged to implement reforms in finance systems

Saturday September 2 2017

Governors have been urged to hasten reforms aimed at strengthening county public finance management systems. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Governors have been urged to hasten reforms aimed at strengthening county public finance management systems. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

By JAMES NGUNJIRI
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Governors have been urged to hasten reforms aimed at strengthening county public finance management systems by taking a leaf from pioneer county governments.

By doing so, finance experts have said, the county bosses will ensure prudent use of public funds and service delivery to residents.

Counties will also have to ensure that their devolved units publish information on their financial plans during the budget making process, which has not been the case.

Budget analysts recommend that access to timely and comprehensive information is crucial if the public is to meaningfully participate in decision making matters.

This information helps the public shape county budget priorities, discuss trade-offs with their representatives in the regional assemblies, and track whether the money is delivering on what was agreed upon during consultations.

The Public Finance Management (PFM) Act, 2012, mandates county governments to publish implementation reports within 30 days.

“All counties need to establish and strengthen the county budget and economic forums as stipulated by Section 137 of the PFM Act, 2012.

This is an important forum in facilitating consultations between citizens and county governments on matters planning, budgeting and overall economic advancement,” said the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK).

The accountants’ body said there is a need for capacity-build auditing at county levels as fulcrums of accountability and prudent public expenditure management.

“We note that a number of counties had already initiated efforts and even established these committees prior to the General Election.

However, we still have a lot to accomplish to ensure that audit committees are effective in the entire public sector,” said ICPAK chairman Julius Mwatu.

Equally, the County Government Act 2012 provides for county planning, including but not limited to principles and objectives of county planning.

Section 104 of the Act stipulates that a county government shall prepare a plan for the county and no public funds shall be appropriated outside the framework developed by the county executive committee and approved by the area assembly.

Section 108 provides for a five-year County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP).

“We note that some of the initial CIDPs (2013 – 2017) were not as consultative as envisaged by the constitutional provisions and relevant statutes,” ICPAK said.

“We urge new leaders to correct some of these anomalies and develop CIDPs that are truly reflective of the needs of citizens. It’s only through this mechanism that we’ll be able to reap the benefits of devolution,” ICPAK noted.

A survey carried out by the International Budget Partnership (IBP) Kenya early this year revealed that most county governments do not publish their budget implementation reports on their websites.

The study done in February showed that, out of the 47 counties, only Kirinyaga and Baringo have released any budget implementation reports for the financial year 2016/2017.

The two counties had published first quarter implementation reports on their websites.

“Baringo County is unique in that it has been uploading its quarterly implementation reports, beginning with the first quarter in 2015/2016,” IBP Kenya said in its latest report released last month.

The report titled, “2016/2017 Budget Implementation in Kenya: Improving Performance, Continuing Transparency Challenges”, also indicated that the other county to have been uploading its quarterly implementation reports was Kirinyaga, but this had not been as consistent.

“While it published its first and second quarter 2016/2017 reports, it had not published any implementation reports prior to this,” IBP Kenya said.

The IBP Kenya budget analysts also noted that the available county reports vary in terms of the information provided.

The analysts point out that from the reports by the two counties, non-financial information on performance against targets is still very general.

Moreover, the data in these reports is not consistent with that of the Office of Controller of Budget reports, the analysts add.