photo: RoGGKenya - shilling bills rising from a termite hole.
The Budget 2017/18 - out of nowhere?

Budgets for Next Year may be illegal in Kenya

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Budget making in the Kenyan nation and counties is far behind schedule, raising fears that these most important documents for the financial year 2017/2018 may finally be illegal. Parliament and County Assemblies have been already waiting as long as 13 weeks for pivotal papers needed for a responsible decision making process. This makes it more and more unlikely that the budgets and the necessary appropriation bills will be duly passed by March 31 as a National Treasury circular provides.

Counties have already reviewed their budget calendars to align them to the circular from National treasury. Nairobi County for instance began its process on 10th August while Bungoma County began the budget process on July 15. Most of the counties have however adopted the circular from the National treasury which sets March 31 as the deadline for having the budgets approved. (see the circular: guidelines-for-the-preparatiom-of-the-2017-2018-2019-2020-medium-term-budget)

Counties don’t know how much they may spend

The upcoming chaos in the budget making is related to the need to finalize the budget for the financial year beginning in July 2017 before the parliaments are to be dissolved in May three months ahead of the general elections (which are scheduled for August 7, 2017). A circular of the Kenyan National Treasury has set the final date for a vote on the budgets on both the county and national level to March 17, 2017 instead of June 30, as in a non-election year.The more speedy process is moving the dates for all preparing steps backward for several weeks. Yet the counties are waiting for the County Allocation of Revenue Bill which was to be passed by the parliament by October 24, almost four weeks ago. Therefore the counties and the other government entities still do not know how many Shillings they may plan to spend for expenses and development of the Kenyan state and society.

Delays of 13 Weeks in Budgetmaking

But the messy situation is not caused by the National level alone. If a research of reporters at Radio Nyota FM in Western Kenya as of last week is representative for the total, a majority of the counties have not yet tabled the County Budget Review and Outlook Paper (CBROP) in the county assembly. This important planning document was due 13 weeks ago, on August 26. Yet only Bungoma recently tabled it on October 4th close to a month after the deadline of September 9th whereas the politicians in Kakamega, Elgeyo Marakwet and Busia are still waiting for their county ministries to come up with it.In Siaya County county for instance, politicians have no clue when the CBROP will arrive. In Busia County, the budget committee chair told reporters from Radio Nyota FM that he is not sure when the CBROP will be tabled in the Assembly. Could this be the case with other counties across the country?

Waiting for important Budget Papers

CBROP reviews the previous year’s budget performance, it updates current year economic expectations, and it proposes provisional ceilings for each sector – which enables administrators and politicians to discuss and draft goals they want to achieve in the upcoming financial year as well as programmes and projects that they would like to start.
The local politicians in Busia are even still waiting for a proper version of the Annual Development Plans which are expected on September 1 in a non-election year, be alone in this pre-election year when the date was set to August 12.
It remains without saying that the date of appearance of the County Fiscal Strategy Paper (CFSP) which according to the circular was to follow the CBROP last week, on Nov 10, is still hidden in a dark future. In a normal year the CFSP is tabled by February 28 and approved by March 15, paving the way for public participation to be held on the document. A spot check by RoGGKenya found out that counties of Bungoma, Nairobi, Kisumu, Siaya, Busia and Kakamega are yet to have the CFSP tabled in the County Assemblies as proposed in the new guidelines of the National Treasury. Nairobi County in its revised calendar is proposing to have the CFSP tabled in the County Assembly for approval by December 2.

No proper  Consideration possible

The up to three month long delay that has already accumulated may result in a hasty formulation of the budget that leaves no time for proper consideration by all the parties involved. Not to mention the public participation process that is made mandatory by the constitution and which follows several steps of the budget making process in the counties.

Just one Working Day for the Public to comment

The national government published its proposed budget policy statement online on Friday 18,November 2016. The public and other stakeholders were only given the weekend and Monday(the only working day) to forward their views on the same document before its finalized. The time given for public was too short compromising on the quality of the views and went against the legal requirements of fully involving the public in decision making.

“Against the Law”

Bungoma County Assembly Speaker Mr John Makali told RoGGKenya: “The budget will lack the views of the public and their representatives unless it’s brought on time for approval before dissolution of the County Assemblies in May. The public will equally not have a say in the way their funds are allocated across the various sectors. This would be against the law and would lead to a constitutional crisis,” said Mr. Makali.
Media in the Counties are yet to report on the budgeting problems and to question administrators and lawmakers on how they are planning to cope with the situation in an even more speedy process.

The Budget Timeline

According to the revised budget calendar, preparation for the budget for FY 2017/2018 was supposed to have begun on July 15 when the County Executive committee members for Finance from counties were to issue circulars with guidelines on the buget making process.
A random check in some counties like Bungoma, Busia and Laikipia indicate that at least these circulars were issued.
The budget process was to begin with a review and updtae of strategic plans, review of programme outputs and outcomes, and carry out an expenduture review of the previous financial year by the Executive.
Projects for the new financial year were supposed to be reviewd and approved by the line sectors with an input from members of the public through extensive public participation and involvement. The sectors were also expected to prepare progress reports on the implementation of the projects in the medium term and prepare their annual plans. Annual-development-plan
Each sector was then expected to draft its sector report as part of the preparations for budget proposals. The process involves a review and incorporation of public views, and stakeholder views in the sector proposals. The sectors were supposed to submit their proposals to the County treasury by October 14.

The County treasury thereafter has to consolidate and forward the draft budget estimates to the County Assembly by January 27, 2017. The County Assembly has until 22 February to review the submitted estimates. The County Assembly at this point will involve all public and all the key players before preparing a report.
The final budget is to be approved by March 31st, 2017, one month to the dissolution of parliament and County Assemblies in May and four months to the August 2017 elections.

Research Questions for Journalists in Counties

What is the status of budget making in my county?

How are executive and county assembly trying to ensure that a proper legal budget is prepared?

Sources:

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