Editorials

Give counties a free hand to use government grants

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Council of Governors chairperson and Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya addresses the media. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • The proposal by the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) that counties be given a free-hand in the use of grants from the national government is appropriate.
  • The current arrangement in which the national government issues conditional grants to counties in form of support for Level Five hospitals, roads, and development of youth polytechnics has been fraught with bureaucratic inconveniences.

The proposal by the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) that counties be given a free-hand in the use of grants from the national government is appropriate.

The current arrangement in which the national government issues conditional grants to counties in form of support for Level Five hospitals, roads, and development of youth polytechnics has been fraught with bureaucratic inconveniences which in some cases defeated the purpose of the cash transfers.

In fact, not all counties have benefited from the grants that came with strings attached such as the specific projects a devolved unit is dictated to implement or strenuous paper work before approval is granted.

This scenario has played out for close to eight years now amid claims by the national government that the devolved units lacked the capacity to handle the funds prudently.

Such assertions no longer hold because counties have undergone a lot of transformation over the years and most of them have come of age in terms of establishing sound work structures, including financial management systems.

It is now time to give the counties a free-hand in spending based on their case-by-case requirement because each devolved unit has its own unique challenges which it would seek to address as a priority.

For example, some counties may have highly developed healthcare systems which do not require additional investment but no food to feed their populations yet grant disbursements from the national government would come with demands that the funds be sunk into health projects.

However, the disbursement of non-conditional grants to counties must be done with caution to avoid abuse of funds by some phony officials.

Counties must uphold accountability in the management of the grants. Funds that are not tied to specific projects and programmes always come with the risk of theft because it makes it difficult to trace how each coin is spent.

The benefits of spending on a needs basis, however, outrides this and it is up to the counties to honour their end of the bargain and ensure that every shilling from the grants is prudently spent.