The Ward Development Fund (WDF) kitty in the counties is subject to never-ending wars between the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) and the County Executives over who will manage and/or implement the fund. These wars are all over the local media and they often involve the County Assembly refusing to pass the budget.
The County Governments Act is explicit on MCAs not being involved in project implementation. The County Reps are mandated by law to oversight expenditure incurred by the Executives. It will amount to conflict of interest if MCAs were to be directly involved in the implementation of projects under WDF.
The clamor for development projects to be initiated in wards by members of the public has pushed MCAs to want to play a role in directly initiating and implementing projects. Members of the public usually want to judge their MCAs on development records they have no role directly in implementation. Executives on the other hand incite the public to question their MCAs on what they have done with regard to bringing development to the areas they represent. This has forced MCAs to push for the creation of the WDF under their armpits.
Areas of conflict are:
- The projects under WDF were supposed to be implemented within a particular financial year.
- The MCAs allocate funds for these projects in the Executives divert the same from the budget.
- There are incomplete or stalled projects due to poor disbursement of funds.
- MCAs demand to have a say in what projects shall benefit from WDF and they demand authority to control the fund. The way the ward development funds are equipped with money is also being criticized. Typically, all the WDFs in a county are financed with the same budget amount whereas the needs of the wards are very different. A poor neighborhood should get a higher development fund than a middle-income ward that is well off critiques say.
The Ward Development Fund
Ward development funds (WDF) are NOT anchored in any law, including the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act. This situation put many county governments at loggerheads with the Controller of Budget who refused to approve county budgets with WDF included. To address this, the county governments came up with their own laws in a bid to “legalize” the fund. The Controller of Budget also released guidelines on how the county governments could make the WDF operational. The guidelines should act as the threshold for any county government that wants to come up with its own WDF to ensure that it complies with the law. See the Ward Development Fund Guidelines (pdf).
Aside from the conflicts around it: The idea of WDF is to assist the counties to implement specific priority projects at the ward level that are (or should) be identified by the public or residents of a particular Ward. It is similar to the National Constituencies Development Fund and the former Constituency Development Fund at the national level. County governments use WDF to finance projects like road construction, bursaries, water projects and the construction of cattle dips. The county governments set aside a certain percentage of their budget for the WDF.
The Key features of the Ward Development Fund Guidelines
- The County Executive member for finance should come up with the Bill or Regulations to operate and administrate WDF. Therefore, it should be the initiative of the executive, not of the MCAs.
- The county executive should appoint someone to administrate the Fund.
- WDF comes into operation only upon approval of the WDF Bill or Regulations by the County Assembly.
- Only the County Executive should manage the fund and implement projects from the fund. The staff for administering the WDF should be selected and hired by the County Public Service Board only. MCAs are excluded from performing any executive functions as per the County Governments Act Section 9(2).
- Public participation is important. MCAs should mobilize county residents to identify priority projects to be implemented under the WDF by the county executive.
- The MCAs should determine the amount of money that goes to WDF as per the role of the county assemblyin the budget making process. They should monitor and exercise oversight on how WDF is spent and how projects are implemented with the Fund.
- WDF can only be implemented within a planning framework, hence should be included in county planning documents, i.e. Annual Development Plan, County Fiscal Strategy Paperand the Budget Estimates.
Several county governments have come up with WDF bills or regulations to make the WDF operational in their counties. Examples are:
- Nyeri County Ward Development Fund Bill, 2015
- Nairobi City County Ward Development Fund Act, 2014
- Nandi County Ward Development Fund Bill, 2015
- Nyamira County Ward Development Fund Bill, 2014