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Kenyans are not getting value for tax: World Bank

A skyline of Nairobi
A skyline of Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Kenyan taxpayers are not getting full value for the hundreds of billions of shillings spent on development projects, a new World Bank report has stated, arguing that countries running similar budgets have achieved more than Kenya.

In the latest analysis of Kenya’s public expenditure, the World Bank says weaknesses in project selection, procurement planning and implementation delays are behind the relatively low public investment outcomes.

“Despite a ramp-up in development spending, public investment remains low relative to peer countries,” says the World Bank. “There is scope for improvement on outcomes realised relative to inputs in terms of public spending in education, health and physical infrastructure.”

It wants the government to do a sector-by-sector deep-dive analysis to quantify exact amounts of Budget allocations that could be saved and potentially re-allocated to other projects to maximise value for taxpayers.

The report says that Kenya spends about 20 percent of its GDP to achieve just 0.17 percent growth in GDP per capita -- a measure of how much each citizen would get if a country’s wealth is distributed equally.

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“This is lower compared to Israel at the frontier that spends almost similar (20 percent of GDP) and gets a 12.2 percent growth in per capita GDP,” says the report.

This means that the Sh701 billion that Kenya has lined up to spend on development in the current financial year may not go the same length to improve the lives of Kenyans as it would for a similar amount spent for Israeli citizens.

For instance, the report says, many countries such as Hungary, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria with similar levels of per student spending as Kenya have achieved higher completion rates in secondary schools compared to Kenya.

“A cross-country comparison between spending per secondary student (in per capita GDP percentage terms) and secondary completion rates shows that given what Kenya spends, there is room to obtain higher outcomes in terms of secondary school completion rates,” notes the World Bank.

This suggests that Kenya’s education outcomes could be improved at the current level of spending or alternatively spend less and achieve levels of education equal to what countries like Ecuador have.

The trend also plays out in the health sector where Kenya’s infant survival per 1,000 live births is lower when compared to that of other countries with similar public health expenditure per person.

“There is room for efficiency gains in terms of infant survival per 1,000 live births, where Kenya records high infant mortality rates relative to Bangladesh, even though both countries spend about the same amount in public health expenditure per capita,” the report notes.

Kenya’s race to spend money to connect people to electricity has also been cited as not achieving much when compared to other lower-middle-income economies with comparable levels of public investment.

Senegal, Namibia and South Africa are cited as countries that have achieved high access to electricity despite spending way below what Kenya does.

According to the World Bank, Kenya should build staff capacity in project appraisal, selection, planning, budgeting and execution across all levels of government.

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