Story: The County Emergency Fund

Droutght in Turkana Coungy is not an unforeseen event for an emergency fund. Photo: Charlotte Morgan/Department for International Development, License: Wikicommons
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In times of emergencies, the Constitution and relevant laws, specifically the Public Finance Management Act allow for money to be budgeted and spent for these emergencies so as to alleviate human suffering.

The Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) states in Section 112 what the County Emergency Fund (CEF) can and cannot be used for:

Limited by Law: The Use of the CEF

It is only for an unforeseen event that threatens damage to human life, welfare or the environment.

Also, section 112 of the same law prescribes (subsection 2) that;

(a) payment from the fund can only be made if they cannot be delayed until a later financial year without harming the general public interest.
(b) payment is meant to alleviate the damage, loss, hardship or suffering which may be caused directly by the event.
(c) the damage caused by the event is on a small scale and limited to the county.

El Nino is not an unforeseen Desaster

The climate phenomenon El Nino is limited to the county, to give an example. And meanwhile El Nino is not unforeseen any more. So it gives no reason to spend money from this fund.

Use first, report later…

In many cases in the counties, CEF is used for purposes contravening the law. The fact that the law allows for the funds to be first used and only later reported to the County Assembly is what creates a loophole for poor monitoring and control.

Research Questions for the Media

Some pertinent questions arise as to how and why these funds can and should be used.

  1. While Section 112 of the Public Finance Management Act 2015 lists what would amount to unforeseen or urgent happenings compelling the use of CEF, do counties strictly abide by this?
  2. How much is sitting in the fund? According to Sec 113 of that act, only up to two percent of the previous budgets can be alloted to the CEF? Is this obeyed?
  3. Is there data or research that informs about the allocation of money from the CEF to specific unforeseen events and damages?
  4. The law allows for short-term borrowing for disasters if they occur and the fund has been depleted. Has this happened in a County? How were the previous funds used? How much was borrowed? What was the interest rate? What is the repayment period? What source was the money borrowed from and why?
  5. What are some of the unforeseen events or disasters that your county has benefited from CEF? Were events like El Nino cited to spend money from that fund ?
  6. How has your County Assembly provided oversight in the use of CEF? Can you access reports on this matter since the establishment of County Governments? Sec. 114 provides that the County Executive Committee must seek approval within two months after expenditure  – and thereafter draft an appropriation bill for the payment. This all must show up in the County Assembly’s files, which are public documents.
  7. Has the County Treasury provided reports of expenditures of CEF to the Auditor General, as provided for in Sec. 115? This has to be done within three months after the financial year has ended – which is by September 30. What were the responses from the Auditor General?