Non-adherence to fiscal responsibility principles: normalising the abnormal?
On countless occasions, the top leadership and allies of the Kenya Kwanza regime have multifariously implored Kenyans not to judge the performance of the current government harshly and hastily. However, it cannot be gainsaid that the early days of a regime lend huge significance to the path its leadership is likely to take and its ultimate legacy. The current political and economic state of the nation is worrying and can only be construed to mean the country is on a perilous trajectory.
The office of the Controller of Budget (OCOB), charged with overseeing the implementation of the budgets for both the National and County governments, recently released the second quarter national government implementation report for the financial year (FY) 2022/2023 in accordance with the Constitution. A review of the report reveals two critical issues that point to a breach of the Constitution and the Public Finance Management, Act 2012, that if unchecked will have dire consequences as far as public finance management is concerned.
- Misplaced spending priorities?
Considering the hard economic times and looking back at the pledges /promises upon which the president campaigned on inter-alia reduce borrowing, empower hustlers, reform the education sector and lower the cost of living, Kenyans expect a government by the people and for the people which from the look of things is a complete contrast of the current regime. According to the Controller of the budget report, the Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) spent over Kshs. 3 billion on domestic travel in a span of three months between November 2022 and January 2023, Kshs. 2.8 billion on coordination of statehouse functions and Kshs. 0.88 billion on coordination and supervision by the office of the Deputy President over the same period. If the controller of budget report is anything to go by, it is safe to state that the government has misplaced priorities which is a direct contravention of Article 201 (d) which provides that "public money shall be used in a prudent and responsible way.
- Continued breach of the 70:30 spending rule
Public Finance Management Act, 2012, Section 15(2)(a) requires the national government to allocate a minimum of 30 percent of its budget to development expenditure and a maximum of 70 percent toward recurrent expenditure in any given financial year. Simply put, this allows the government to balance the electorate priorities vis a vis the administrative needs of the government. Out of the Kshs. 3.3 trillion budget for FY 2022/2023, only 21.5 percent was channeled to development expenditure. Further, the second quarter national government implementation report for the FY 2022/2023 reveals that Kshs. 1.27 trillion translating to 88 percent was directed to recurrent expenditure and Kshs. 0.17 towards the development budget representing 12 percent. This finding is not unique to this current regime but a trend that has been propagated over the past fiscal years thus requiring urgent action.
Further, the move by the government to extend life to Chief Administrative Secretary positions and the creation of two functional offices for the spouses of the Deputy President and the spouse of the Prime Cabinet Secretary is unwarranted and can only be interpreted as a reward for the president’s sycophants, a move that fails the governance test, balloons the wage bill and burdens the taxpayers; the consequence of the above will be deprivation of the common Mwananchi access to basic services, which is one of the main tenets of devolution.
Noteworthy, the ordinary Kenyan continues to bear the brunt of huge taxation to finance the government budget and expects that the government puts into good use the revenues and in return effectively and in an affordable manner provides services to millions of Kenyans who are currently facing starvation and high cost of living.
Based on the foregoing, the Kenya Human Rights Commission shares its dissatisfaction with the way public resources are being managed by the current regime and demands the following actions;
- The executive arm of government to respect, uphold and protect the Constitutional provisions as far as public finance management is concerned.
- The legislature particularly the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to discharge its mandate faithfully, objectively and diligently by ensuring checks and balances of the executive in utilisation of public resources.
- The relevant independent institutions particularly the office of the Auditor General to thoroughly investigate the issues raised in the controller of the budget report and act accordingly.
- To the people of Kenya, sovereign power belongs to us and the least we can ask our leaders to whom we have delegated this power is to discharge the same in a manner that serves our interests and revamping of the economy to ease the tax burden on our shoulders remains a top priority.