Key graft fighting institutions hard-hit by huge budget cuts

GJLOs cuts

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission experienced the biggest spending reduction

Friday August 17 2018

Most of the key institutions charged with fighting corruption suffered deep spending allocation cuts in the current fiscal year even as they take on the government’s new initiative against graft.

Some of the institutions like the Judiciary have complained that they were already underfunded and the aggressive cuts will derail efforts they had amped up to deliver justice to Kenyans.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) experienced the biggest cuts in the Governance, Justice, Law and Order sector (GJLOS) with its spending allocation slashed by a third to Sh2.9 billion in the fiscal year 2018/2019 from Sh4.3 billion the previous year, finds a Nation Newsplex review of the national expenditure estimates. The mandate of the agency is to promote integrity and combat corruption through law enforcement, prevention and education.

The money allocated to the Judiciary for development is just about seven per cent of the Sh670 million that the 47 counties spent on Member of County Assembly (MCA) sitting allowances in the first nine months of 2017/2018 and Sh8.6 million more than what Kakamega County spent on the perk

Figures from the latest EACC annual report show that the commission averted the possible loss of public assets worth about Sh6.2 billion after carrying out 25 proactive covert investigations in the fiscal year 2016/2017. The commission also completed 32 asset-tracing inquiries in respect of public assets (public land, government houses and cash) that had been illegally acquired estimated at Sh5 billion and recovery of the resources is ongoing. During the same period, 23 applications for preservation of assets were made and others valued at about Sh256 million were recovered.

The commission also finalised 143 files on corruption and economic crimes and submitted them to Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for action. Twenty-five cases were finalised in court resulting in 18 convictions and seven acquittals, with three cases being withdrawn.
Some of the actions taken by the commission in the last two months include arraignment in court of former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero. Earlier this month, Dr Kidero together with seven others were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud leading to loss of more than Sh213million for services not rendered.

During the same week, National Lands Commission Chief Mohammed Abdala Swazuri and 16 others were charged in the Anti-Corruption Court with conspiracy to commit fraud, thereby causing loss of public funds belonging to Kenya Railways Corporation amounting to more than Sh221 million.

In June this year, EACC detectives arrested and arraigned in court Nakuru Town West Constituency Member of Parliament Samuel Otara Arama for corruption on land related matters.

The second biggest cut was suffered by the Assets Recovery Agency which was allocated Sh161 million, a drop by almost a quarter from Sh211 million in 2017. The agency is a semi-autonomous body under the office of the Attorney-General. The AG’s budget shrunk by 16 per cent from Sh6.1 billion in to Sh5.1 billion, the fourth worst decline during the same period.

The combined funds allocated to the EACC and the AG’s office (Sh8 billion) were almost the same as the spending estimates for the National Youth Service (NYS). The service, hit by a Sh9 billion scandal, was handed Sh7.9 billion, which is more than half of what the entire Judiciary was allocated. This was however, a huge decrease (half) for NYS, which got Sh15.8 billion in 2017/2018.

Exposed scandals

The Judiciary was also hard-hit by the cuts with the third biggest reduction in the GJLOs sector. The third arm of Government saw its overall expenditure allocation in the current fiscal year drop by a fifth to Sh14.5 billion from Sh18 billion in 2017/2018. This is equivalent to 0.8 per cent of the national spending estimates. Until this year, the share of the national spending budget allocated to the Judiciary remained at an average one per cent over the past seven years, falling well below the internationally-recommended standard of 2.5 per cent.

This is the third lowest allocation to the Judiciary in seven years, with the least being in the financial year 2012/2013 when it got Sh12.2 billion followed by 2014/2015 (Sh14.2 billion).

The Judiciary was given Sh50 million for development, an amount that Chief Justice David Maraga said is inadequate to enable the completion of court construction projects across the country. In a press release the CJ said that a total of 70 court construction projects would stall due to unsettled payments amounting to Sh6.8 billion. Of these, 29 are under funding from the World Bank through a programme that is set to expire in December this year. “The 29 projects are nearing completion, but without renewal of the World Bank funding, they will remain as white elephants,” said Maraga in a recent interview with NTV.

The World Bank had granted the Judiciary a loan facility of Sh11.5 billion back in 2013 in the Judicial Performance Improvement Project which lasts until the end of 2018. The Judiciary says that the National Treasury has failed to extend the loan facility to 2020.

The spending cuts will also bring to a halt about 50 mobile courts countrywide, rolling back the crucial steps made in easing access for the public. A previous analysis by Newsplex showed that about half of Kenyans who face legal issues do not go to courts.

Currently, one in six cases has been in the court system for over 10 years since they were filed. The total case backlog stood at 315, 378 in the fiscal year 2016/17, down from 344,658 cases in the previous fiscal year, a drop of eight per cent. The Judiciary planned to clear all the cases that are over five years by end of 2018. Maraga said the low budgetary allocation had disrupted the plan.

MCA allowances

The money allocated to the Judiciary for development is just about seven per cent of the Sh670 million that the 47 counties spent on Member of County Assembly (MCA) sitting allowances in the first nine months of 2017/2018 and Sh8.6 million more than what Kakamega County spent on the perks, according to the Controller of Budget County Governments Implementation Review Report 2017/2018 (first nine months). The money is 12 times less than what the Presidency spent on hospitality during the same period.

On matters investigation, the budget for Criminal Investigation Services was trimmed by seven per cent to Sh6.5billion from Sh7billion in 2017/2018. Among the mega scandals that the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) exposed recently include the NYS scandal, multi-million Kenya Power and Lighting transformer scandal and the Sh90 billion Kenya Pipeline Corporation scandals. The National Intelligence Service, which works closely with the DCI too had its allocation cut by two per cent to Sh31.2 billion from Sh31.9 billion in the last fiscal year.
The allocation to the Kenya Police Services dipped by two per cent to Sh49 billion from Sh48.2 billion.

Overall, five of the 14 ministries, departments and agencies within the GJLO sector had their budgets reduced. The reductions amounted to a shrinkage of 15 per cent in the spending estimates for the sector over last financial year. This sector is tasked with provision of security, and correctional services, administration of justice and legal advisory services to government agencies.

But it was not all gloom for institutions in the sector. The allocation for Financial Reporting Centre, which is responsible for assisting in identifying proceeds of crime and curbing money laundering, almost doubled from Sh300 million in the last fiscal year to Sh587 million. The Administration Police Service saw its spending budget improve by less than two per cent from Sh30.3 billion to Sh30.7 billion.

The Office of Director of Public Prosecutions too, had its allocation boosted by almost half (46 per cent) to Sh2.9 billion from Sh2 billion in 2017/18. The docket faces challenges, including corruption cases having conclusion rate of eight per cent, due to various factors such as complexity of proving such crimes and transfer of magistrates, according to the 2016 ODPP Annual Report.

The Witness Protection Agency’s spending estimates spiked by nine per cent to Sh483 million from Sh442 million. The agency, on behalf of the State, gives special protection, to persons in possession of important information and who are facing potential risk or intimidation due to their cooperation with the prosecution and other law enforcement agencies.

The National Police Service Commission that recruits, appoints, promotes and disciplines people serving in the police force saw its budget spike by 15 per cent to Sh631 million from Sh548million over the same period.
The spending estimates of the Independent Policing Oversight Authority that provides civilian oversight over the work of the police increased by 17 per cent to Sh817 million from Sh696 million.

Generally, two in five of the ministries, departments, agencies and commissions of the national government had their expenditure allocations slashed, according to data from the Treasury programme-based budget reports.

The institution that experienced the largest cut was the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) whose allocation declined by 87 per cent from Sh33.3 billion to Sh4.2 billion. However, the cuts were expected bearing in mind that the commission’s activities have gone down since the completion of the most prolonged election period in Kenyan history in 2017.

The IEBC was followed by state departments for Post Training and Skills Development (78 per cent) and Planning (66 per cent). The overall national spending allocation increased by five per cent to Sh1.75 trillion from Sh1.67 trillion in the previous fiscal year.

Parliament, which reduced the Judiciary allocation from the Sh17.3 billion that Treasury had proposed to Sh14.5 billion, was among the bodies that got more money. The second arm of government (National Assembly and Parliamentary Service Commission) was allocated Sh36.8 billion, a 15 per cent increase from Sh32 billion in the previous fiscal year.

The total government budget (government, consolidated fund services and counties) went up by nearly 20 per cent from Sh2.6 trillion in 2017/2018 to Sh3.1 trillion.