Featured Health

Health budget gains as county starves key sectors of funds

ALLOCATIONS: Children from poor families will have a difficult time pursuing their academic dreams

Estimates show that the county government plans to spend over Ksh10.6 billion in the 2022/23 financial year on 16 key expenditure areas

Supplementary budget estimates released by the County Government of Kajiado show that the health sector will take the lion’s share, dwarfing other critical sectors.

Statistics provided to the Kajiado Star indicate that health has been allocated nearly Ksh2.8 billion for the financial year 2022/23, making up 26.22 per cent of the county budget. All other sectors have been allocated well below half of the health budget.

In contrast, the education sector will receive slightly more than a quarter of the amount allocated for health at Ksh702.5 million, amounting to 6.59 per cent of the total estimates. This presents a double tragedy for the sector considering the declaration of the Constituency Development Fund as unconstitutional; a huge chunk of CDF monies were used to improve educational facilities and offer bursaries to needy students.

While both health and education are critical social services, it is not clear why health was well funded while education was not considered as equally worthy of funding. The education sector is responsible for raising the critical manpower required by all other sectors of the economy.

The estimates show that the county government plans to spend over Ksh10.6 billion in the 2022/23 financial year on 16 key expenditure areas.

The county government proposals were forwarded to the County Assembly and considered by the nine-member House Budget and Appropriations Committee chaired by James Nina. Other members of the committee include Paul Matuyia, John Loisa, Joseph Mutunkei and Rebecca Karia. Others are Jonathan Korroine, Titus Masila, Jecinta Lepaiton, and Joseph Karatina.

“The committee has revised the development expenditure to address the drought situation and emerging needs,” Nina told the House while moving the motion for adoption of the supplementary budget estimates.

The committee, added Nina, also noted key critical issues that required redress and were either inhibiting service provision or restraining socio-economic growth. These include the ballooning wage bill. “Therefore, the committee recommends the Public Service Board institute a hiring freeze… as well as consider filling positions internally or further encourage the options of voluntary retirement or retrenchment as well as carry out an internal audit.”

Indeed, after health, the second largest amount will go to the public service, which has been allocated Ksh1.15 billion. This is 10.79 per cent of the total estimates. The county suffers from a bloated workforce and an unknown number of ghost workers, raising the wage bill to 44 per cent of the devolved unit’s revenues. This is well above the statutory ceiling of 35 per cent.

“The County Executive Committee Member in charge of Finance, Economic Planning, and ICT should establish budgetary control measures to ensure compliance during budget implementation and enhance fiscal reporting,” said Nina in his speech.

He was perhaps alluding to the committee’s rejection of a proposal for a Ksh100 million allocation for a programme to deal with drought effects by purchasing up to 5,000 cattle from farmers. In an unsigned press statement, the committee is said to have been displeased with a lack of policy guidelines.

That narrative has not gone down well with Kajiado Governor Joseph ole Lenku, whose office released an unsigned press statement criticizing the move to reject the allocation as “partisan” and motivated by political considerations. He has pursued this line in his public pronouncements, openly castigating the County Assembly for refusing to come to the aid of their drought-stricken constituents.

Other sectors with significant budget allocations are agriculture and water. The former received Ksh1.01 billion making up 9.52 per cent of the budget, while water was allocated Ksh536.5 million or 5.03 per cent of the budget.

All other sectors received less than 3 per cent of the budget each. These include roads, gender, trade, and lands.

The budget allocations give a sneak preview of what the county government will be expected to achieve in this financial year, which ends in June 2023. If the funds will be utilized for the intended purposes, county residents can expect to see more health facilities opened and provided with staff and medical facilities, in addition to life-saving drugs.

However, residents will have to get used to impassable roads and non-existent agricultural extension services. Children from poor families will have a difficult time pursuing their academic dreams, while water and sanitation services will remain wanting.


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