Development expenditure by county governments dropped between July 2017 and March this year, a recent report by the Controller of Budget shows.
Cumulatively, county governments spent Sh25.98 billion, which is a 17 per cent absorption rate of the annual development budget in those first nine months of the 2017/18 financial year.
This was a drop of 20 per cent from the 37.9 per cent recorded in the same period of the 2016/17 fiscal year when development expenditure was Sh62.74 billion.
The Controller of Budget, Ms Agnes Odhiambo, blames the decline in development on high personnel emoluments and frequent delays in the disbursement of the equitable share of revenue by the National Treasury.
Her report singles out Garissa, Kirinyaga and Kisumu as counties which did not report any expenditure on development in the period under review.
In Garissa, a total of Sh3.73 billion was spent on salaries and emoluments.
However, expenditure on domestic travel totalled Sh67.32 million.
“Recurrent expenditure was 100 per cent of the funds released for activities and excluded outstanding commitments, which amounted to Sh10 million as of March 31, 2018,” she said.
Kisumu County’s wage bill increased by 16.1 per cent, from Sh2.42 billion in the first nine months of the 2016/17 fiscal year to Sh2.81 billion, the audit report added.
There was also increased expenditure on travel by 20.1 per cent, from Sh140 million in the first nine months to Sh168.14 million.
“The County Public Service Board should establish an optimal staffing structure in order to ensure a sustainable wage bill. County government should reduce expenditure on non-essential items in order to fund development projects,” Mrs Odhiambo said.
Similarly, the wage bill in Kirinyaga County increased by 68.9 per cent, from Sh1.15 billion to Sh1.94 billion in the first nine months of the financial year, representing 78.9 per cent of the devolved government’s expenditure.
Ms Odhiambo said important services in counties are adversely affected by the huge and growing wage bill.
The 2015 public finance management regulations set a ceiling for a county government’s expenditure on wages and benefits at 35 per cent of the total revenue.
County governments spent Sh108.04 billion on personnel emoluments, which accounted for 58.8 per cent of the total expenditure for the period under review, the report added.
It was an increase of 18.2 per cent, from Sh91.39 billion incurred in a similar period of the 2016/17 financial year in which personnel expenditure translated to 44 per cent of the budget.
“The office of the Controller of Budget notes that continued increase in the wage bill is unsustainable and will reduce spending on development,” Ms Odhiambo said.
“County governments should therefore, ensure that expenditure on personnel emoluments is contained.”
According to the report, Busia, Laikipia, Lamu, Marsabit, Meru, Siaya, Tharaka-Nithi and West Pokot are yet to establish and implement county budget and economic forums.
The forums usually provide a means for consultation by the devolved governments on issues relating to budgets, the economy and financial management.