The Kenyan Parliament is supposed to play an oversight role over the budgetary process to ensure that the nation’s priorities are adequately catered for. After years of playing a largely rubber-stamp role in the budget process, MPs agitated for a more active role and as a result passed the Fiscal Management Act in 2009, which required the Minister of Finance to publish detailed expenditure and revenue details prior to asking Parliament to fund the budget.
The provisions of the Fiscal Management Act which require more transparency around the budgetary process were in effect during this year’s budget reading for the first time.
Government’s compliance with the Fiscal Management Act for 2010/11 Budget
The Act requires the following measures be undertaken before the passing of the budget:
- Every public entity must prepare its budget and submit to its parent Ministry by the 28th of February of each year. These budgets must be annexed by Treasury to the Annual Estimates of Recurrent and Development Expenditure laid before the National Assembly on 10th June 2010. It is unclear whether all public entities were complianet
- By 21st March of every year to lay the Minister must present a Budget Policy Statement in the National Assembly. The 2010 Budget Policy Statement is available on the Ministry of Finance’s website. According to this report by Marsgroup Kenya, however, their is a huge discrepancy between the Budget Policy Statement presented to the Parliament in March and actual government expenditure.
- Parliament has the power to withhold money for budget line items and emoluments for failure by the Treasury to satisfy prior audit queries such as those of the Controller and Auditor General. To date, Parliament has not indicated any willingness to undertake such measures.
Parliament’s Performance to date for 2010/11 Budget
- The House Budget Committee appears to be asserting its role, for instance, by querying discrepancies between the budget policy statement presented in March 2010 and the final budget presented in June 2010.
- It seems that most MPs have not embraced their oversight/watchdog role as far as the budgetary process. For instance, only 35 MPs showed up at a meeting last week between the House Budget Office and law makers. The meeting was intended to explain the impact of the budget on the country’s development.
- MPs have been quick, however, to raise questions about the under-allocation of funds to the CDF Kitty. One would like to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they have their constituents interests at heart, but most comments on Mzalendo MP profiles suggest that the CDF funding is not reaching its intended recipients.
Where do the citizens fit in?
- The budget process is still opaque to the average Kenyan citizen. It has been left to civil society groups like the Institute for Economic Affairs (check out their Citizen Alternative Budget) and Marsgroup Kenya to play both the oversight and education role.
- The government has, however, recently announced the launch of the Social Budgeting Framework as a first step in building a more participatory process.
Want to learn more about the budget, other good reads include:
IEA’s MP Guide to the Budget