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MPs turn heat on Treasury over ‘many supplementary budgets’

Sunday June 28 2020
YATANI

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani tabling Sh3.2 trillion Budget at Parliament Buildings on June 11, 2020. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By DAVID MWERE

Lawmakers have accused the National Treasury of being an impediment in implementing the country’s budget by generating several supplementary expenditures in a single financial year.

This, they said, inconveniences the budget calendar and applies unnecessary pressure on them to continue scrutinising every bit of the revised figures when they are required to provide oversight for the budget read in June every financial year.

At some point, Majority Leader Amos Kimunya offered to train Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani on the need to implement the budget instead of generating supplementary ones.

“I would undertake to be part of that training process on behalf of the House so that the new leadership at Treasury can at least spend more time on budget implementation rather than doing supplementary budgets,” he said.

This comes as MPs generated and approved the report of the Budget and Appropriations Committee on Supplementary Budget III for 2019/20 in record time and just five days to the end of the current financial year.

‘NOT HAPPY’

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The passage of the revised estimates came exactly two months after Supplementary Budget II was adopted. The estimates were tabled in the House on Tuesday afternoon by Mr Kimunya.

“I was exactly not happy being brought Supplementary Budget III on Tuesday with only two days to process it. I will be taking up this with the Treasury so that at least we are seen to have enough time to interrogate these things,” he noted.

It was a unique supplementary budget, as the House departmental committees did not get an opportunity to scrutinise the figures, for lack of time.

The supplementary estimates saw the country’s overall expenditure revised by Sh11.9 billion, about Sh9.23 billion for recurrent expenditure and Sh2.68 billion for development.

Article 223 of the Constitution states that the government may spend money that has not been appropriated.

EMERGENCIES

But this may happen if the amount appropriated under the Appropriation Act is insufficient or a need has arisen for expenditure for a purpose for which no amount has been appropriated or money has been withdrawn from the Contingencies Fund.

Such needs are emergencies in nature or expenditures that cannot wait.

However, it is not clear what was so urgent that could not wait until July 1, the start of the new financial year (2020/21), which was five days away.

The Treasury, Mr Kimunya said, needs to get it right in budgeting so that “we don’t have to come changing the budget every other day much as it is allowed under the Constitution”.

“It is not something that I would want to be pleading with members to stay here beyond their time because of a crisis created by somebody else that could have been averted.”

NOT A CONVEYOR BELT

In what could be a pointer that lawmakers will not be a conveyor belt for the Treasury, they rejected a proposal to raid Sh3 billion that was ring-fenced for specific health facilities dealing with Covid-19 cases.

The health facilities include Kenyatta National Hospital (Sh600 million) and Kenyatta University Teaching and Referral Hospital (Sh500 million).

Others are Coast General Hospital (Sh400 million), Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Hospital (Sh400 million), Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (Sh400 million), Kitui Hospital (Sh300 million) and Garissa Hospital (Sh300 million).

Minority Leader John Mbadi (Suba South) attributed the constant revision of the national budget to laziness and carelessness by the Treasury in the budgeting process.

“In the history of this country, this is the first time we are confronted with the passage of Supplementary Budget III. It has never happened previously. Before the 11th Parliament, this country has never entertained more than one supplementary budget,” Mr Mbadi said, adding, “We must discourage this idea.”

LACK OF REALISM

Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wah, who chaired the budget committee until recently when he was kicked out, said that “it is only this House” by resolution that can unlock the money ring-fenced to provide PPEs to medical workers.

He noted that constant revision of the budget could be an indication of the government’s lack of realism in estimating revenues in the budgeting process.

“The country needs to have credible budgets anchored on realisable revenue targets,” he said.

Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), told the House that lawmakers need to consider the constant revision of the national budget.

“We in PAC have come to face a lot of challenges with these additional supplementary estimates. They frustrate budget execution processes, leading to unnecessary pending bills,” he said.

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