Coastal counties must open budget process for voices of residents

Advocacy Statements / ArticlesJune 15, 20200 CommentsKituo Cha Sheria

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ambassador Ukur Yattani Kanacho unveiled a budget of Kes. 2.73 Trillion on 11th June 2020. Out of the amount, Kes. 369.9 Billion was allocated to the counties[1]. The Coastal counties take home over Kes. 37.9 Billion, with Kilifi scooping the lion’s share, almost Kes. 10 Billion. Mombasa on the other hand has projected an expenditure of Kes. 14.6 Billion, with Kes. 5 Billion expected from the depleted local source, Kes. 7 Billion from central Government and over Kes. 2 Billion from grants. In the back of your mind, the Coast has sunk over Kes. 216 Billion since the dawn of the devolved economy[2]

Per se, you would envisage the lives of the Coastal people glowing positive output. It remains a mirage in the current order of events. There have been a number of vital challenges in origination of these budgets. The end product portends little for the common man. Despite laboring the burden of taxation, they remain vulnerable and at risk of death from hunger. Case in point, Covid 19 pandemic and the subsequent begging bowl by both central and county governments. State could not feed its citizens for a week. Notwithstanding the fact that they have paid taxes all their lives. The hope of a salvaging vision to put the projected amount to proper use for the good of the people is hollow.

The hoi polloi have the law on their side though. The constitution of Kenya is replete with articles requiring citizen voices in budget making process. Right from article 1, 10, 174, 201 and more. The very spirit and letter is visited in the Public Finance Management Act 2012, County Government Act 2012, and Access to Information Act 2016, related statutes, case law and policies. The State is mandated to enable citizens’ participation in their affairs. 

Devolution of power and resources foresee trickling down effect. The primary focus being the Kenyan at the periphery. It is the hallmark of decentralization as anticipated under chapter eleven of the Constitution and aligned statutes. Power and resources should be in the hands of the people.

The provisions under these laws outline institutional framework and guidelines under which citizen engagement ought to be conducted. For budget process to enjoy the legitimacy of the people, there must be proactive County Executive Committee, vigilant County Assembly, functional County Budget Economic Forum, well-designed Sector forums, facilitated County Administration units where sub county and ward administrators reside. These institutions requires the oiling of essential political will to drive the people’s agenda. We lack in this aspect. The Coastal Counties have proceeded to design budget documents in blatant disregard of these institutional frameworks. For instance, Mombasa proceeded to prepare upcoming budget without a complete functional County Executive Committee. Section 129 of the Public Finance Management Act requires the tabling of budget estimates before a fully-fledged County Executive Committee defined under article 179 of the Constitution. More disturbing is the fact that since 2017, the County has never found it necessary to establish the County Budget and Economic Forum. This is despite the statutory obligation to establish the institution 30 days upon the formation of the County Executive Committee. We therefore formulated five year plan, the CIDP, without such a fundamental institution.

Access to information is another key factor. Article 35 of the Constitution and provisions under the Access to Information Act require state to be proactive in availing to the citizenry. The Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) goes ahead to set dates and procedures of budget making at the county budget. Sections 125 and 126 of the PFMA are notable examples. They outline the formulation, approval, implementation and evaluation of a county budget. These processes require citizen voice, utmost transparency and in sync content.

Currently, the requirements remain in the book. The implementers of the law are rudely reluctant to facilitate Wanjiku’s role in budget making process. Despite rushing to conjure public forums, what happens in those platforms are way below the threshold of public involvement. This financial year illustrates; in the advent of the pandemic, you would expect optimum utilization of online platforms especially social media. Information within the confines of the Coast Civil Society reference group paints a bleak picture to this case. Kituo Cha Sheria conducted an on desk research to establish the extent to which information is captured in the websites of the Coastal counties. They monitored the websites between 22nd May 2020 and 12th June 2020. Lamu has no budget document online for this financial year. Mombasa County Assembly updated their website on 28th May 2020 after the push by the Coast Civil Society Network. This happened under the Governance thematic area. Notably though, this was long after the Budget estimates were passed by the Executive and tabled at the Assembly. The lobby comprising of over 30 organizations represented by Lenggo, LSK Mombasa, Kituo Cha Sheria, Kwacha Africa and Catholic for Peace held a meeting with representatives of the county executive and the county assembly on 28th May 2020. The documents were subsequently uploaded. Consequently, the lobby sought for more time extending the original submission deadline from 2nd June 2020 to 10th June 2020. Kwale County had neither called for the submissions nor provided for modalities of engagement on the Budget Estimates. The documents are missing from their website.

The other three counties, Tana River, Taita Taveta and Kilifi are not pleasantly placed either. The sum total of documents uploaded by at their Executive and Assembly websites cannot support comprehensive analysis and issuance of sublime submissions.

The Counties’ regard to the fundamental process of budget making loathes at the dream of devolution. Little evidence evince to buoy people’s participation. In Mombasa, the Governance lobby unit had to seek an appointment with the speaker of County Assembly of Mombasa to push for copies to be provided to every ward. This is after the Sector wrote a letter calling Assembly back to session. The ‘Waheshimiwas’ had gone home and forgot their central duties of oversight, approval of budget policies, representation and legislation. Civil society had to go on social media to call them out before resumption to duty. It is a clear manifestation of a house out of touch with reality and unworthy of resources invested on them. From this process, the weakness of Assemblies are self-expressive. Their capacity to capture the moment and rise to occasion is uninspiring. They are held captive right from their political parties. The Executive remains in total control. In the advent of the masculinity of the Assembly from the National level, the poor and the vulnerable ‘cannot breathe’. May George Floyd’s soul rest in peace.

Covid 19 has made matters unbearable. Every county took a backseat in the excuse of the anti-gathering regulations. The executives in these counties formulated the budget proposals on their own terms and standards. Yet, due to Covid 19, the voices of the people needed more space for the following three reasons:

One, ideally the budget making process begun in August 2019 when the budget circular was due for release. In September, the Annual Development Plan 2020/2021 was formulated and approved. Allow me to say, in instances where this happened. This plan ought to guide the development plans in the upcoming FY. The circumstances of its creation were oblivious of the pandemic which struck us early this year. We will have to live with the consequences of the same for the next FY. Public input to the Budget Estimates was thus necessary to review development priorities and capture new normal.

Second, there is a dire need to revive economy and to boost businesses in the road to recovery. We missed an opportunity for a vibrant discourse towards resumption of growth.

Third, the mode of engagement have significantly changed with Covid 19. New ideas are emanating albeit with gaps. Social media which is a gem for the youth, doesn’t work for the elderly. Proactively, the Counties had a responsibility to seek innovative ways to touch the Citizenry. May be a blend of strategies would work.  It was not the time to completely shut voices. State chose the latter.

The directive by the Ministry of transport requiring all cargo be loaded to the dreaded ‘snake’ (SGR) has led to fundamental economic downturn in the region. All families that relied on clearing and forwarding firms and truck chain businesses remain under economic oblivion. Obviously at the detriment of the region.

While the above point to a bleak future, the road towards change is clear and eminent. The vigilance of the populace remains the sole fulcrum to drive change. It is on this backdrop that Kituo Cha Sheria and other like minded organizations under the umbrella of Coast Civil Society Reference Group are on the road to reinvigoration of the voices of the masses to capture their space. The lobby will rope in key sectors like Business Community; Boda Boda, Matatu Sector, traders – both small scale and large scale, all in their numbers. We will knock the doors of the professional clusters like the Law society of Kenya, teachers, health workers, engineers and Unions in the coast to push state. The religious community of all creed must join the mission.  The cancer of State Capture, lethargy in Public service and barefaced corruption must be discarded. Corona or Not, the right to involvement of people and institutional growth must begin in earnest.

Zedekiah Adika, Advocate Kituo Cha Sheria

Chair, Coast Civil Society Reference Group

Dated, 13th June 2020.



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