Address pending bills hitch to grow counties

Wednesday, January 25th, 2023 09:16 | By
Shilling drops further amid falling forex reserve
Kenyan currency. PHOTO/Print

Among the major challenges devolution has been facing is the management of pending bills, which continue to postpone the envisaged benefits of the system of governance.

The good news is that the thorn in the flesh is being sorted out at both the National and County government levels, with payments being fast-tracked. It is a big sigh of relief to the economy.

It will not only help spur growth by injecting fresh funds to boost businesses, especially  SMEs, that have been struggling under the weight of unpaid bills, but it will also help keep jobs that could have been terminated due to lack of funds.

By December 21, 2022 County governments had cleared Sh22.9 billion of the Sh48.1 billion pending bills, verified as of June 30. Data from the Budget Policy Statement (BPS) indicates firewalls were also erected on gross amount of pending bills, rendering them ineligible due to lack of documentation for deals worth Sh108.1 billion as of June 30.

This means the State is putting its house in order and if more precision and due diligence was put towards actualisation of existing polices, the country would be eons ahead.

As a matter of fact, this is what is required to give impetus to the economic growth on the back of several global and local shocks. 

That while it is important to ensure pending bills do not accumulate and hurt trade at the grassroots, there is need to stop the recurrence of unpaid bills and take people to account for it.

Going forward, the Treasury should ensure revenue is released and outstanding bills paid in time, in compliance with the Public Finance Management (PFM) Act, to avoid disruption of operations and financial obligations at the counties.

All this is possible if we made filing of reports in time and disclosing details of bills, including  giving reasons when amounts may have been settled late, a procedure.

To spur devolution, counties must also provide monthly payment plans for bills. Questions as to  why counties are not reflecting pension liabilities in pending bills stock, yet this poses a great risk. .

Otherwise, with claims of fake pending bills, most counties may find it difficult to operate. Perhaps, it’s time authorities invoked Article 225 of the Constitution and the PFM Act provisions that mandate the Treasury to stop transfer of funds to entities that do not adhere to laid down regulations.

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