Kenyans would be surprised to know the 2016/17 government budgetary process is already under way. In many ways, the current discussion on the 2013/14 budget implementation and audit reports distracts from the task at hand.
Officially, the budget process starts in August of the prior year. From August to December, Treasury must have ministerial consultations and conduct public hearings on the Budget Policy Statement (BPS) before submitting it to Parliament.
The budget making process was one area completely reformed by the 2010 Constitution. Previously, budget making was exclusively an executive role and the Finance Minister single handedly determined the budgetary allocation for various sectors. This rendered the budget a political tool used as a stick and carrot.
Presently, the real power in determining budgetary allocations rests with Parliament and the citizens; treasury has been reduced to the executive’s “diplomat.” Wanjiku was placed at the centre of the budgetary decision making process through public participation. Like Treasury, Parliament must also facilitate public participation on the budget before coming up with the final edition.
In addition, the budget making process has been lengthened under the Public Finance Management Act to ensure Treasury, Parliament and the public consult sufficiently. These monumental reforms were made to shield Kenyans from opaqueness that resulted in looting of public coffers.
Regardless of these new roles and opportunities, a huge gap remains due to lack of national discourse during the budget making process. Both Parliament and members of the public have missed the different opportunities in the last two years.
For example, in the 2015/16 budget making process, Parliament was on recess in January and February when the discussion should have been at the peak. Refusing to set enough time to debate the budget, obscures the role of Parliament and renders mute the spirit of our Constitution.
For your information, no MP should complain that the government was too ambitious in setting its budgetary allocations. All Parliamentarians have a chance to influence the budget which they often abdicate. Their show of powerlessness when talking to the public is in bad taste.
Parliament should set enough time for debates, since informed discussions, create adequate public awareness. A thorough budget making process would help seal the loopholes corrupt officials use.
Ideally, the public should know the allocations of various ministries, departments and agencies, but this has not been the case. This knowledge would help them manage their expectations of each Ministry and empower them to ask questions when their expectations aren’t met.
Kenyans expect Parliament to remain alert during the whole budget making process. Parliament should use implementation and audit reports to inform future budgetary allocations. In order to prevent the pilferage of public funds in the budget implementation stage, the office of the Controller of Budget should be strengthened to submit quarterly budget implementation reports on time. This will aid in early identification of corrupt tendencies in government agencies both at the National and County level.