Rashid Abubakar @MountKenyaTimes
The Council of Governors (CoG) has been cited delayed disbursement of funds as one of the major issues derailing county operations and delivery of services to the public.
COG Chair Martin Wambora who spoke Tuesday in Nairobi while delivering the 8th annual devolution address said that failure by the National Treasury to release the equitable share to counties in good time has contributed to a myriad of challenges facing the devolved units of governance.
“Non-compliance of County Governments regarding timely payment of employees’ salaries and remittance of County employees’ statutory deductions.” said the Embu governor.
Mr. Wambora lamented that the delay has occasioned deferred settlement of eligible pending bills besides salary issues.
Further, he noted that delayed disbursement of funds derailed Counties’ response measures to covid-19 pandemic, noting that dealing with other emergencies such as droughts, floods, and the locust invasion became an uphill task as a result of the delay.
The COG chair said that the Treasury is not exclusively to be blame for this state of affairs, noting that the County Governments had been forced to wait for long before receiving their allocation of the shareable revenue because of delayed approval of the Division of Revenue Act (DoRA) and County Allocation of Revenue Act (CARA) 2020 by both the Senate and the National Assembly.
He noted that under performance in Own Source Revenue (OSR) coupled with increase in fuel costs and agricultural inputs had severely affected the agricultural sector, with food production expected to deteriorate due to high production costs.
Wambora said that the outbreak of COVID-19 saw counties allocate an average of 32.9 percent of their total budgets to the health sector, an increase from 26.1 percent from the previous year .
“At the beginning of the pandemic, county governments had 6,094 isolation beds, currently, counties have 8,663 isolation beds. 36 counties have attained isolation facilities with a 300 bed capacity and functional ICU beds have increased to 440 from with 242 functional HDU beds,” he said.
The Embu Governor also decried several pieces of legislation that came into effect in the last year, which he claimed clawback on devolution.
“Tea Act, 2021, that establishes the Tea Board of Kenya, which will undertake regulatory functions meant for Counties under the Constitution.” He pointed out.
According to the CoG chair, Education, Trade, Tourism and Agriculture are some of the sectors adversely affected by COVID-19 restrictions while ICT, Energy and natural resource management registered marked improvement.
He also singled out the Business Laws (Amendment) Act No. 1 of 2020, which amends the Land Act, 2012 and Land Registration Act, 2012 by removing the requirement of obtaining certificates of payment of land rates or rent from the county governments, a key source of revenue for counties.
“These laws seek to undermine devolution, and the Council and Parliamentarians of goodwill must work together to amend the offending statutes and ensure that they conform to the Constitution of Kenya,’’ said Wambora.
Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa challenged county bosses to adopt innovations in service delivery and to have transparency and accountability to citizens.
“It will take us having resilient counties for us to have a resilient country. In the middle of a global crisis, we have had an opportunity to improve. The challenge has made us do more in the health sector than we have done in the last fifty years,” he said, and added that “I don’t think devolution has ever been tested like it has been tested in the last one year.”
Wamalwa asked county assemblies to pass necessary legislations on climate change so that they can be able to access funding.
Currently, 29 county governments have enacted climate change Acts.
Climate change is expected to take center stage during the upcoming 7th Annual Devolution Conference scheduled to take place in August in Makueni County.