The county governments are rushing to complete their budget making process for the financial year 2017/2018 in accordance with a circular by the National Treasury advising counties to complete their budget process by 31st March 2017. The county governments revised their budget calendars and the county budget making process is being rushed to ensure that it is in line with the revised schedule that intends to ensure that the budget making process does not conflict with the general elections scheduled for August 2017.
Questions had been raised that the budgets for next year may be illegal due to the delay by the County Executive in tabling important documents before the Assembly and making them available for public inquiry. But what should enable you to know whether the budget making process for your county government is on schedule? You should find out the key documents and timelines for budget making that the county has carried out so far.
Key Documents that should be available by now
By now (early December 2016), most counties are expected to have prepared and tabled their draft County Fiscal Strategy Paper (CFSP) before the County Assembly. The National Government equivalent, the Budget Policy Statement, should have been tabled earlier than the CFSP because it contains draft recommedations on the division of revenue for the counties.
Apart from the CFSPs, other documents that should already be available are-
- Budget circular – for most counties these should have been available by 30th August. They direct county departments on how to prepare their budgets. You will also find the (revised) budget calendar in the circular that contains the guidelines for public participation in the budget process.
- Annual Development Plan (ADP) – Every county is supposed to have tabled this document by September 1st. For more on the ADP, click here.
- County Budget Review and Outlook Paper (CBROP) – The CBROP is important in that it reviews the previous year’s budget performance, it updates current year economic expectations, and it proposes provisional ceilings for each sector.
- And now we should expect the draft County Fiscal Strategy Paper.
Key events in the revised budget calendar that should have already taken place
By now, most counties should have already conducted their Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) budget hearings. Basically, these are sector hearings where the county government organizes public forums to seek public views and input that will be incorporated in the County Fiscal Strategy Paper.
The public should be provided with a chance to decide whether they agree with the provisional ceilings provided in the CBROP. The provisional ceilings are basically temporary allocations to each sector, say sh10 million for agriculture or sh20 milliuon for health. These provisional ceilings are subject to change when the hearings to consider the public views to incorporate into the CFSP (MTEF budget or sector hearings) take place. The revised ceilings are then incorporated in the CFSP.
Apart from the ceilings, the public should be able to review the sector (and subsector) priorities for the counties. For example, whether to prioritize health over agriculture. These priorities will then be incorporated in the CFSP.
The MTEF budget caters for the coming financial year and the medium term (usually the next two years after the coming financial year). So the 2016 MTEF budget or sector hearings will cover the financial year 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20.
Most county governments carried out their sector hearings on the CFSP between late October to November. A few also held the hearings in early December.
What to expect in the coming months
In the month of December, we should expect the county assemblies to deliberate and pass the CFSP with public input incorporated. The CFSP will determine the amount of money allocated for each sector and county priorities and projections for revenue and expenditure.
In January 2017, we should expect the county governments to prepare their draft programme based budgets and present them to the County Executive Committee for approval. In February, the draft budget estimates should be tabled before the Assembly for consideration and the public hearings on the budget estimates should take place between this time and early March 2017. In March, be on the lookout for the final approved budget, the Appropriation Bill and the Finance Bill.
The Appropriation Bill allows the counties to withdraw and spend money from the County Revenue Fund once the Assembly passes the bill into an Appropriation Act. The Finance Bill once passed into the Finance Act allows contains the revenue raising measures proposed by the county government to finance the budget.
Research Questions for Journalists
- What is my county’s revised budget calendar? Every county government has a budget calendar for every financial year. You should find the calendar in the county’s budget circular (if it is not available online, you can request from the county Assembly).
- Has my county stuck on the proposed key dates and timelines in the revised budget calendar? What has it achieved so far in line with the calendar?
- Are all the documents that should be available by now online? That is, the budget circular, the ADP, CBROP and CFSP? It is a good practice for the county governments to avail these documents online to facilitate public participation. You can find out about this by referring to your county’s website.
- Did my county carry out the sector (MTEF budget) hearings? If so, have the views presented by the public been incorporated in the CFSP? Most CFSPs should have a ‘risk’ section showing to what extent the county government considered or deviated from the views presented by the public.
- What to expect in the coming months with regard to the budget cycle?