Counties must push up own revenue

Thursday, January 26th, 2023 00:02 | By
Council of Governors chair Anne Waiguru and committee chairpersons in Mombasa on September 17, 2022. Photo: Courtesy.

The alarm has been sounded — county operations could grind to a halt due to delays by the National Treasury to release their cash allocations.

The Council of Governors (CoG) says that 16 counties are yet to receive their share since last October, rendering them incapable of providing key services and payment of staff salaries.

President William Ruto last year indicated that the national coffers are dry and asked Kenyans to play their fair part in paying taxes.

On Tuesday, the President triggered hope that there has been a significant improvement in revenue collection. We encourage the Treasury to disburse cash to the devolved units in order to alleviate the pain of residents who depend on key services.

Particularly, we are concerned about supply of drugs to hospitals, and payment of salaries to staff at a time many parents are struggling to take their children back to school.

But even then, the counties must wean themselves of their unfortunate dependency on the National Treasury for resources.

 Governors have been deliberately ambivalent on the volumes and use of own- source revenue generated through various avenues by the counties. A study commissioned by the World Bank on own-source revenue in the counties shows that the units have a huge untapped potential.

The revenue streams in counties include property rates, hospital service charges and fees for parking, markets, leases, rents, business and building permits, advertisements and liquor licences.

It is a well-known fact that much of the revenue is undeclared or lost to corruption and poor management practices. It has become a lucrative avenue for primitive accumulation of wealth by county officials to the detriment of service delivery. These continues to feed the over-reliance on the national granary.

There have been consisted calls for county governments to come up with more innovative ways of generating resources and sealing corruption gaps. Experts have pointed out the passing of strong legislation, policies, monitoring, enforcement and use of technology.

 The study cited lack of effective revenue collection and management systems, unregistered property, political interference, tax evasion and resistance to pay as some of the challenges faced. Hhuge debts incurred by defunct municipalities inherited by counties should also be addressed. Governors have been reluctant to clear these debts, claiming they were avenues for pilferage of public coffers.

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