Corporate

MPs to lose control of constituency funds

Planning Minister Wycliffe Oparanya. Kenya’s 47 counties will get more development cash from the Treasury in a raft of changes proposed in the Constituency Development Fund Act. But even as CDF increases to six  per cent of the national budget or Sh70 billion based on 2012/13 Budget of Sh1.158 trillion, the proposals seek to scrap constituency bursary funds.
Planning Minister Wycliffe Oparanya. Kenya’s 47 counties will get more development cash from the Treasury in a raft of changes proposed in the Constituency Development Fund Act. But even as CDF increases to six per cent of the national budget or Sh70 billion based on 2012/13 Budget of Sh1.158 trillion, the proposals seek to scrap constituency bursary funds.  

MPs will lose control of constituency development cash if the proposals of a task force that the government appointed to look into the management of the devolved funds become law.

The team has recommended that the Treasury should more than double the amount of money it allocates to constituencies from 2.5 per cent of the national budget to six per cent, beginning next year.

That translates to a whopping Sh70 billion from the current annual allocation of Sh21.7 billion, which the committee argued is in line with the Constitution.

The recommendations are contained in a draft CDF Amendment Act, currently at the Attorney-General’s chambers.

Planning minister Wycliffe Oparanya received the taskforce’s report and said the draft Bill is the product of a consultative process that should find little opposition in the House.

“Having consulted widely, we expect Parliament to pass this Bill by October in order to retain the CDF in next year’s Budget,” said Mr Oparanya.

Chapter 12 of the Constitution only recognises the sharing of public funds between the national and county governments besides setting aside money for the Equalisation Fund, Parliament and the Judiciary.

The law goes ahead to specify how national revenue is to be shared between the two levels of government – capping the national government’s portion at 85 per cent.

The proposed amendments seek to sidestep this legal hurdle by classifying CDF as a national government function to be financed from the national government’s share of the Budget.

In a departure from the current operational structure, the taskforce has proposed that county executives receive the funds for onward transfer to constituencies.

“County executives will only receive the money for legal purposes, but have to immediately transfer it to the constituencies,” said Muriuki Karue, the chair of the taskforce.

Under the new structure, Members of Parliament will have no say in the management of the funds – a proposal Mr Karue said had overwhelming support from the public.

Recent surveys have revealed that MPs’ involvement in the management of CDF exposes the funds to high levels of pilferage and use in the promotion of political interests.

MPs currently act as CDF patrons with the power to pick the management committees that select projects to be financed from the fund.

This arrangement has come under criticism for leading to skewed allocation of resources and wastage when newly elected MPs abandon projects initiated by their predecessors.

The proposed amendments give local communities the power to choose projects for financing while committing the fund’s managers to complete ongoing projects before embarking on new ones.

“Day- to- day management of CDF affairs in constituencies will be the task of a management committee elected directly by public as the MPs take oversight role,” Mr Oparanya said, adding that election of community representatives would be supervised by the central government.

Removal of politicians from the management of the funds is expected to meet resistance in Parliament and possibly a fresh standoff between the Treasury and MPs.

During the public consultations in June, the Treasury had promised that MPs would identify projects to be financed from the fund while county executives would take over the implementation role.

This promise is one of the carrots that the Treasury dangled before MPs to induce them to pass the 2012/13 the Appropriation Bill by June 30 - a record time.

“For the first time since Independence, ministries are free to draw 100 per cent of their allocation to finance their projects because Parliament approved the budgets by the first day of this fiscal year,” Finance minister Njeru Githae said.

The proposed laws also spell out a 10-year jail term for anyone convicted of misappropriating CDF, a harsher penalty compared to current sentence of five years or a Sh200,000 fine.

Kenya’s 47 counties will get more development cash from the Treasury in a raft of changes proposed in the Constituency Development Fund Act.

But even as CDF increases to six per cent of the national budget or Sh70 billion based on 2012/13 Budget of Sh1.158 trillion, the proposals seek to scrap constituency bursary funds.

The management of education bursaries — which account for 15 per cent of the CDF and that of emergency reserve (five per cent of CDF disbursement) — have been a source of conflict between MPs and their constituents.

Various studies have detailed cases of favouritism and nepotism arising from the MPs’ discretion.

Mr Karue’s team has proposed the setting up of a national kitty to handle education funds saying unscrupulous individuals were exploiting the present arrangement where more than 13 devolved funds were offering bursaries.

“We found out that the same individuals who received education funds at constituency levels also benefited from local government and national educational funds,” said Mr Karue.

omondi@ke.nationmedia.com