Just days after surviving a spirited fight to oust her from office, Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu is locked in another battle with members of the county assembly over this year’s slashed budget.
The governor is accusing the county assembly of disregarding the law by mutilating her budget proposals for the 2020/2021 financial year and failing to pass the vote on account, to settle political scores.
Salaries for county employees and payments to merchants, who supply goods and services, may be delayed unless MCAs reconvene to resolve the fresh standoff on Budget.
The Controller of Budget Friday summoned Kitui Speaker George Ndotto, Assembly Clerk Elijah Mutambuki and Budget committee chairman Boniface Kilaa to explain the failure to pass the vote on account which allows expenditure by county governments.
The MCAs, who had been locked in impeachment tussle with the Governor passed this year’s budget last week but reduced the estimates submitted to them for approval by a whooping Sh949 million from Sh11.2 billion to Sh10.3 billion.
The assembly slashed the budget of nearly all county departments with the biggest casualties being ministry of trade where its allocation of Sh402 million was slashed to Sh220 million.
This, Mrs Ngilu claims amounts to overstepping their constitutional mandate by illegally imposing another political party’s manifesto for her to implement.
Kitui County Textile Centre (Kicotec) – one of Ms Ngilu’s flagship projects which has won national and global accolades for making government uniforms and protective clothing during the Covid-19 pandemic, is among the casualty projects denied funds.
In the budget estimates submitted to the assembly, Mrs Ngilu had proposed to expand Kicotec by spending Sh30 million to establish two new textile factories in Mwingi and Mutomo towns.
The Sh30 million which were re-allocated to other projects by MCAs were to be used to renovate existing county facilities and convert them to factories, to create jobs for youths, generate more revenue for development besides boosting the economies of the two towns.
The Governor was hoping to create about 1000 jobs with the new Kicotec branches but also generate more than Sh500 million in domestic revenues through the sale of the textile products.
In an interview with Nation, Ms Ngilu stated that Section 131 of the Public Finance Management Act, limits the County Assembly variations on budget votes to 1 percent of the ceilings and so the MCAs have no powers to arbitrarily remove funds from one vote to another.
“PFM Act, Regulations 37 (1) clearly stipulates that any changes in the annual estimates of budget shall not exceed one percent of the vote’s ceiling. The mutilated budget clearly violate this provision,” said Ms Ngilu said.
The governor noted that the MCAs want several county projects dropped without giving any justification yet the Assembly approved the same programmes in the Annual Development Plan and County Fiscal Strategy paper.
To accommodate the slashed budget, the county assembly surprisingly reduced the revenue target set by the executive from Sh948million to Sh600 million.
Kitui is among few counties with increased domestic revenue collections due to the investment in ventures such as the textile facility and the newly established Kitui County Youth Enterprise Centre which manufactures building materials.
Mr Ben Katungi, the County executive for Treasury, said the only remedy was to send back the budget with memorandum to the assembly to comply with the law.
“The assembly dropped Sh600 million set aside to clear pending bills and Sh110 million County Empowerment Fund which was meant to be disbursed to empower youths and women among other groups as revolving funds” said Mr Katungi.
The fund was established last year, a fund administrator and committee was set up but The Controller of Budget identified some inconsistencies between the regulations establishing the fund and the PFM Act, delaying its rollout.
The MCAs also removed the allocations set aside for procurement of certified seeds to be distributed to farmers, Sh132 million set aside for purchase of Agricultural Machinery and Equipment that Ngilu’s administration plan to start value addition was dropped.
However, James Munuve, the Vice-chairman of the Budget committee said MCAs amended the budget estimates to factor concerns from the residents who wanted more infrastructure projects in the villages.
On the reduced revenue targets, Mr Munuve said the executive was being over ambitious in its plan to raise Sh948 million locally, up from Sh350 million collected annually by the previous administration
The MCA defended his colleagues in denying funds for establishment of new Kicotec branches saying there were other deserving projects than establishing new textile factories.
“We agree that Kicotec has helped broaden the county revenue base and the proceeds can be utilized in other projects but we had to balance the pressing needs of other sectors like early childhood education” he said.