The government is on the spot for failing to release over Sh18 billion Equalisation Fund due to marginalised counties.
County Assemblies Forum (CAF), a forum for all the 47 county assemblies, chairman Ndegwa Wahome said that since coming into effect of the Commission on Revenue Allocation's (CRA) second policy on marginalised areas in 2018, a total of Sh18.187 billion has been allocated-- between 2017 and 2020 -- yet no amount has been disbursed so far.
He said that only Sh10 billion out of the Sh12.4 billion allocated in the 2016/2017 financial year under CRA's first policy on marginalised areas where 14 counties were classified as marginalised, has been disbursed and some projects within the identified priority areas already completed.
"Therefore, we recommend that the delay in disbursement be addressed forthwith so that target beneficiaries can enjoy the services as quickly as possible," said Mr Wahome during the ongoing second ASAL conference in Amboseli National Park in Kajiado County.
The Fund, which is 0.5 per cent of all national government revenue collections for each year according to article 204 of the Constitution, is channelled towards the provision of priority basic services including water, health, roads, electricity and education to marginalised areas or communities to quality levels enjoyed by the rest of the nation to the best extent possible.
Under the second policy which is set to run for a period of 10 years, a total of 1,424 sub-locations spread across 111 constituencies and 34 counties have been identified to benefit from the Sh5.7 billion allocated in the current financial year.
The additional counties are Busia’s Rugunga, Baringo, Bomet, Bungoma, Elgeyo Marakwet, Homa Bay, Kajiado, Kericho, Kisumu, Kitui, Laikipia, Machakos, Meru, Migori, Murang’a, Nakuru, Nandi, Siaya, Tharaka Nithi and Trans Nzoia.
Initially, the 14 counties included Mandera, Marsabit, Turkana, Wajir, Samburu, West Pokot, Tana River, Narok, Kwale, Garissa, Kilifi, Taita Taveta, Isiolo and Lamu.
Mr Wahome observed that while CRA's recommendation that Equalisation Fund Advisory Board (EFAB) does establish Project Implementation Units (PIUs) in the identified sub-locations comprising of national and county government officers in respective areas to reduce political infiltration, identification and implementation of projects as was the case with the first policy, it has presented new challenges including increasing administration cost beyond the 5 percent threshold; procurement and tendering, accounting responsibilities, monitoring and evaluation, among others.
"To this end, we propose that PIUs be involved in project identification, implementation and monitoring and evaluation while EFAB under PS National Treasury be charged with responsibilities of procuring, disbursing the funds based on completion certificates, project evaluation and accounting for the funds," he said.
He further called on the Senate and County Assemblies to quickly establish legislation on ring fencing the funds, timely disbursement of the funds, procedure for project identification, implementation, public participation and role of oversight bodies such as the county assemblies to ensure value for money for target beneficiaries.
At the same time, the CAF chairman said this was the time to address marginalisation in ASAL through sustainable and resilient development approaches which must be fast tracked through a multi-sectoral coordination approach.
This, he said, can only be realised if requisite policies and legislation both at the national and county governments are put in place.
Mr Wahome pointed out that reversing marginalisation can only happen through a well formulated masterplan anchored on national legislation and affirmative action in funding of mega government projects in the region.
"Through this conference, key policy makers, development partners and the private sector must take stock of baseline data and craft a roadmap to eradicate socio-economic exclusions that have marginalized nearly 6 million of Kenya’s population," said Mr Wahome.
He observed that the region has been hard hit by global warming and climate change which have the potential to wipe out the livelihoods with a study by Kenya Market Trust in 2018 noting that the cattle population in ASAL areas has declined by 26 percent over the last 30 years due to global warming and unpredictable rainfall.
"While the county executives and assemblies in ASAL counties have done a tremendous job to address marginalization, much remains to be done. We advocate for strong cooperation between national and county governments to tackle climate change which is the greatest threat to ASAL areas," he said.
He said that Samburu County Assembly has passed a Bill that is expected to streamline the activities and funding of community conservancies as a way of tackling marginalisation within the county.
The Nyandarua County Speaker explained that about 70 per cent of Kenya’s livestock and 90 percent of wildlife are found in the ASAL areas. Further, ASALs have high potential for livestock development, irrigated agriculture, renewable energy, mineral wealth, trade, tourism and strategic positioning suited for mega infrastructural projects.
"To develop a coordination framework for development of ASALs, participants must acknowledge the historical injustices, resource endowment and that ASALs hold future prime prospects for economic growth of this country," he said.