A recent report on Constituency Development Fund (CDF) use published by the CDF Board calls for deeper interrogation on how exactly these public funds should be allocated and utilized. The Board declined to approve proposals from 137 constituencies as it termed them ‘not of public interest’.
Some reflection of what these legislators wanted would put it to better context. Voi constituency sought to use CDF money to take teachers on trips it termed “inter-county benchmarking”. Turkana Central Constituency wanted a Toyota Land Cruiser and a pick-up “fitted with all accessories, including electronic and manual winches”. The Land Cruiser would have cost Sh6.5 million and the pick-up Sh6 million. The constituency in the arid Turkana County, with poor electricity and internet connection also wanted to hire a consultant to develop “an online bursary application system, students’ database, website, Facebook and Twitter handle and its management for one year.”
Many other projects would largely be duplication as they are functions of either the national government or county governments. Some critical issues arise from the above. The first is what informed these projects? The constitutional imperative and expectation of public participation is more likely to have been ignored. It is not possible that Turkana Central Constituency residents would prefer a want over a need.
Secondly, how and what should constituencies prioritize? Resources are always limited and only prudent prioritization will inform allocations that would benefit the people. Each constituency has its own dynamics and a ‘one size fit all’ solution cannot suffice. From the two examples, it is likely that the CDF offices decided on these projects from Nairobi.
There are also concerns over the constitutionality of CDF. Some critiques have argued that the fund violates various provisions of the Constitution. For instance, the Institute of Social Accountability (TISA) has a pending case in court in which it seeks to have the CDF declared unconstitutional and have it restructured in line with the current Constitution.
CDF is critical to poverty alleviation and economic development. It is another form of decentralized power and functions, apart from devolution, whose funds should be directed at ensuring the lives of Kenyans, are better.
What happens in the CDF planning stage matters. The planning must be as transparent as possible and include people’s input right from the committee selection through to the projects management. The people must come together to discuss and prioritize what projects they want funds allocated for and in what areas.
The constituency is recognized as a devolved unit at the Sub-county level. It therefore means that constituencies must work together with county governments to ensure that there is no duplication of projects. They have to be complementary right from the planning stage.
MPs have been very critical of Governors in how they spend their money. It cannot be that the practice of preaching water and drinking wine is condoned. MPs have to respect and follow the law to ensure the electorate feel the benefit of their leadership positions and associate with them.