The County Government of Nakuru has affirmed it’s commitment to strengthening accountability and fiscal discipline in the use of devolved resources to deliver better services and enhance equitable economic development.
Governor Susan Kihika reiterated her administration’s resolve to ensure transparency in all the county government’s financial dealings.
“As much as counties agitate for increased funding, accountability should be compulsory. I advise my counterparts in 46 counties that we cannot run away from accountability,” stated Ms Kihika.
Speaking after holding deliberations with Auditor General Ms. Nancy Gathungu, Deputy Auditor General Mr. Edwin Kamar and Regional Director Henry Nyadwaki in her office the Governor observed that one of the main purposes of devolution was to bring public finances closer to citizens in a manner that would allow them to have a say on how county budgets were planned for and used.
“We are committed to complying with the Constitution and the 2012 Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) which require each of Kenya’s 47 counties to publish information during the formulation, approval, implementation and audit stages of the budget cycle. Nakuru County has competent and well-staffed financial management staff and systems,” Governor Kihika said.
Ms. Kihika affirmed that she will ensure timely generation of both budget estimates and implementation documents so that citizens can hold the county government financially accountable adding that making documentation against which accountability can be gauged against was a right of Kenyans.
“Although the lack of information does not automatically mean funds are being embezzled, the lack of budget reporting encourages embezzlement. We will ensure that we account for every penny spent, as per the Public Finance Management Act. There will be no leeway for unauthorized spending,” assured the County boss.
To increase Own Source Revenue (OSR), minimize revenue leakages and enhance performance Ms. Kihika said her administration was using a cashless mode of payment, had installed CCTVs in key revenue streams collection points as well as engaged vibrant and dynamic revenue clerks.
The devolved units over-rely on transfers of the equitable share of the revenue from the National government to pay staff salaries and other recurrent costs that have come at the expense of development projects.
Delays in the release of equitable share— money shared between national and county governments— has in the past nearly crippled critical services at the counties such as hospitals while in other cases county staff went for months without salaries.
A tax gap impact report by the Commission of Revenue Allocation (CRA) and World Bank estimates that Nakuru misses out an estimated Sh1.985 billion annually of its internal revenue potential.
The governor stated that the County Government was working on an integrated county revenue management system, including digitizing of land and property records.
“Digitizing of land and property records, and updating valuation rolls also remain critical and integral components in enabling our county to optimize its revenue potential,” said Ms Kihika.
She vowed to ensure that the Controller of Budget was allowed a real-time access of county accounts to boost efforts to track payment of pending bills and other expenditures.
The Governor expressed her commitment to complete multimillion-shilling projects started by the previous administration and improve efficiency.
The projects include a Sh900 million building that will serve as the county headquarters, the Sh600 million Naivasha Wholesale Market, Sh240 million Naivasha Fish Market, and a Sh600 million bus terminus in Nakuru City.
Phase one of the three-storey Naivasha wholesale market, whose construction started early last year and is expected to cost Sh149 million, is 80 percent complete. The market is being constructed under the Kenya Urban Support Programme.
The renovation of Afraha Stadium in Nakuru City is also underway. The Sh348 million project kicked off a year ago.
In the health sector, Ms. Kihika will have to ensure the completion of a Sh118 million Oxygen Plant at the Nakuru Level Five Hospital, a Sh760 million ultra-modern outpatient wing at the same hospital as well as the Sh150 million upgrade of the Molo Sub-county hospital.
Other projects include; completion of level four facilities started in various parts of the county.
Governor Kihika has also inherited a series of projects within Nakuru City including the Sh80 million street-lighting and drainage project in the central business district.
Ms. Gathungu indicated that the Public Audit Act, 2015 requires the Auditor-General to state in audit reports how responsive a state organ or public entity has been in implementing past audit findings.
She noted that Parliament and County Assemblies have made several recommendations arising from the audit reports which are required to be implemented by constitutional commissions and independent offices.
“We continuously propose audit recommendations to enhance the accountability, transparency and effective, economic and efficient collection and utilization of resources,” she told a forum of constitutional commissions and independent offices.”
She however said that some of the accounting officers have not been implementing the recommendations which would have mitigated some of the current issues the country was experiencing.
The Auditor General cited the lack of an effective mechanism for follow-up on the implementation of audit recommendations and the lack of consequences or requisite sanctions for non-adherence as some of the reasons accounting officers do not implement audit recommendations.
“This has led to perennial failure by some accounting officers to adequately account for the management and use of public resources entrusted in their care,” Ms. Gathungu said.
“It has also led to fiscal indiscipline including misallocations, wastage of resources, theft and corruption which in turn has affected development programmes thereby threatening the sustainability of service delivery and the wellbeing of the citizens.”
By Anne Mwale