Critical to determining how bread and butter is allocated to who, why and how much is the budget. The budget guides how the development of a country or county will be curved out in a given a financial year, so citizens need pay it some attention and engage in its development.
In Kenya, the government embraced Program Based Budgeting (PBB) in 2012. PBB can be described as a budgeting structure where money is distributed by program or functional area with an emphasis on the latter’s service delivery objectives.
A good program budget should explain the overall mission and objectives of the budget, clearly link priorities to programs, explain changes over time in allocations and expenditure and relate challenges and objectives in the sector to budget allocations and how the challenges would be addressed.
On 30th April, the Ministry of Finance published the budget estimates for the financial year 2015/16. It is instructive to note that with county governments taking over some functions earlier performed by the national government, looking through the estimates will help tell where the national government’s priorities are.
Some key issues of the previous budgets’ 2013/14 and 2014/15 should help interrogate the proposed estimates. One is that over the two financial years education received the largest share. Secondly, the three sectors (education, security and infrastructure and energy) have accounted for 64 percent of the total budgets over the period.
In the proposed 2015/16 budget, government is set to make big changes in sector priorities. Infrastructure and energy sectors will have the highest spending at 27% displacing education from the helm. On the other hand, 18% of the budget will be spent on debt repayment.
According to budget analysis released by the International Budget Partnership (IBP) last week, Ministries of Lands and Housing, Gender and Youth plus Devolution have excelled in their absorption capacity. Even so, development related expenditure needs to improve substantially. In the next budget an increase in programs like rail transport, cabinet affairs, tourism and security is expected.
Questions that still need to be addressed include: How dependent are the sectors/ministries receiving large shares of funding on external resources? Should the estimates provide more funding to sectors/ministries that have historically been able to spend it or to those that have had spending challenges?
These issues should arouse an interest in more Kenyans to read the estimates and contribute, before the actual budget is read this June. It cannot be that budgets are devoid of public input and that even when avenues are provided, few take cognizant of them and attend.
‘Power of the Purse’ lies with Parliament, as the people’s representatives. Although Parliamentarians budgetary choices are often informed by projects in their regions, alignment to national priorities, implementation plans and audits the public can still inform the choices they make. Do you know what the estimates say about your county and constituencies plans? Is it aligned to your goals for better service delivery within your neighborhood? What would you like to see in the budget? Kindly let your Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) and Senators know.