Cabinet Secretary National Treasury Henry Rotich was quite upbeat about the 2016/17 budget that he presented in Parliament, terming it pro-poor. He further admitted that he was glad the government was allocating money to among other areas, education, health and Agriculture. But that wasn’t exactly accurate.
Compared to the 2015/16 budget, a summary of the budget by Jane Kiringai, a senior Economist, Macro Fiscal Management GP reveals that, Agriculture, rural and urban development allocations remained stagnant. Meanwhile health and education allocations in the budget shrunk.
Additionally, in 2015/16 recurrent budget was 84.6%. That is to mean this percentage (84.6%) was used to cover ongoing activities and projects that last less than a year. Simply put, the government in 2015 had less money for capital expenditure that builds a country’s economy. The same report by Jane Kiringai puts expenditure on development that year at 45.8%.
Perhaps something to mull over is the fact that our tax collection is way above the regional average but we have the highest debt compared to other countries in East Africa. Our public debt stands at over 50% while other EAC countries are at an average 30%. That the debt is soaring this fast despite reports that growth in recurrent expenditure is contained is something of a wonder.
It does not matter how wonderful the budget prospects sound, as long as corruption is still having an upper hand. On that note, it is rather impressive according to Jane Kiringai’s report that the 2015/16 budget had an over 77% overall execution. It is impressive because to date we are not yet sure just how much the country lost in youth projects like NYS.
Maybe to understand the gravity of this matter, CS Treasury explained how the government had allocated Ksh. 29.5 billion for water supply and sanitation, and another Ksh. 2.1 billion for water storage and flood control. Meanwhile it is anyone’s guess whatever happened to the Ksh. 5 billion that was meant for El-Nino rains. This is indeed a good example why, mere allocation of monies should not excite anyone unless we have proper accountability mechanisms.
It is good the CS noted there is a need for an effective service delivery. He mentioned that the government was on course on implementing robust Public Finance Management. Moreover, while this is exciting news, so was the much touted state-of-the-art Integrated Financial Management Information Syatem (IFMIS) which proved to be just as prone to corruption as rudimentary financial management services.
In fact the Director, Mr. Jerome Ochieng had said, much to the surprise of most Kenyans that IFMIS did not have a disaster recovery centre in case its servers malfunctioned. Take time and let that sink. It does not matter how much CS Rotich preaches about eProcurement in government. So long as we are not seeking solutions to ensure oversight is strong and public officers are accountable, the idea that the 2016/17 budget is pro-poor will just be that, an idea.
However, this is a good a budget as any could be, considering the current challenges in the country. It has the right tone and if well executed indeed Kenyans will greatly benefit. This is where Parliament comes in as the oversight arm of the government.
Nonetheless, as the ever-shortsighted legislators, MPs had threatened not to approve the budget if CDF allocation is not part of the kitty, obviously because of selfish reasons rather than national. That the budget estimates were approved this week only after the President reprimanded MPs allied to the Jubilee coalition is not lost on us. If only the 11th Parliament could get this aggressive over lack of tight control mechanisms in the movement of money in government then the budget making process would be a key indicator of the country’s direction and overall economic growth.