With funds released counties must work

Friday December 8 2017

Counties have gone through hardships in the past five months due to lack of cash from the government.

Most of them were unable to provide services, pay debts and meet their routine obligations.

Largely, this resulted from disagreement between the Senate and the National Assembly over the enactment of an enabling law — the County Allocation of Revenue Act. It was only passed a couple of days ago.

Now, President Uhuru Kenyatta has signed it into law, enabling the National Treasury to release the cash to the counties, which must be expedited.

But cash disbursement is one thing and utilisation is another.

Counties have become notorious for financial imprudence.

Wastage and misappropriation have become the norm.

Annual reports of the Auditor-General paint a sorry picture.

The expenditures are unmerited, with the bulk going to activities such as benchmarking trips, retreats and allowances, while service delivery and other critical needs are underfunded.

It is even distressful when one considers that counties tend to initiate mega projects that stall midstream, tying up huge sums of public money.

Equally, concerns are always raised about equity where county managers favour some regions, creating animosities within the localities.

The county system has proved popular with the citizens as it allows channelling of resources to the local level.

But the funds must not just be documented in books; they have to impact directly on the lives of the people.

County funds must be tightly managed and governors and their technical officers ought to be closely monitored to ensure they do not engage in profligate spending.

The authorities must enforce strict accounting and reporting to ensure that county funds are put to proper use.

Since this will be the first tranche of disbursement for the new county administrations that came into office in August, the public has high expectations.

The governors must actualise the promises they made to the electorate. At the same time, the counties must begin looking inwards and exploit their potential to generate own funds to guarantee financial stability.