More than half of the counties spent nothing on development in the first quarter to September, hurting job creation and infrastructure projects in the devolved units.
Latest data from the Controller of Budget (CoB) shows that 25 of the 47 counties failed to spend on items like road revamp, water and sewerage network spent in the period when the total spend by all devolved units on projects stood at Sh1.94 billion.
This is a 45 percent drop compared to the Sh3.51 billion governors spent on development activities in a similar period a year ago.
“Development expenditure amounted to Sh1.94 billion, representing an absorption rate of 1.1 percent, and a decrease from two percent attained in the first quarter of FY 2018/19 when total development expenditure was Sh3.51 billion,” said acting CoB Stephen Masha.
Development spending is critical to building infrastructure like roads and sewerage and putting money in private hands through demand for raw materials, which ultimately creates new jobs.
County authorities are the biggest buyers of goods and services at the grassroots, meaning that reduced spending on projects has a negative impact on job creation and cash in circulation.
During the period under review, Baringo, Bomet, Busia, Garissa, Homa Bay, Isiolo, Kajiado, Kisumu, Laikipia, Lamu, Mandera, Meru and Migori did not spend a coin on development activities.
Others that had nil development expenditure during the period are Mombasa, Nandi, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Samburu, Siaya, Taita Taveta, Tana River, Trans-Nzoia, Turkana, Uasin Gishu and Wajir counties.
The Sh1.94 billion development spend is, however, slightly higher than the Sh1.15 billion spent in the three months to September 2017 when Kenya was in the middle of a bruising General Election and the lowest spend since the onset of devolution in 2013.
Cement makers, steel manufacturers, contractors and the thousands of workers who are employed in infrastructure projects all benefit from public spending and feel the pinch in times of project expenditure slowdown.
The reduced project spending could be linked to delayed disbursement of funds by the National Treasury to the counties on the weeks that followed the start of the fiscal year in July.
None of the 47 devolved units had received funds at the close of the first quarter in September.
The delay was caused by a stalemate over a Bill that guides revenue sharing between the national government and the devolved units.