New PSs must ensure funds are spent well

Wednesday, December 7th, 2022 01:46 | By
Ruto's govt' borrowed over Ksh500B in three months
President William Ruto. PHOTO/Courtesy.

The biggest responsibility for a Permanent Secretary is to ensure that tax money allocated to their respective ministries is spent in line with the Budget and that citizens get value for each payment made.

Whereas this may sound simple and straightforward, it is unfortunate that this is not always what happens. In the past, audits have revealed that about a quarter of the national Budget is lost to misappropriation and wastage. This is a trend that needs to be stopped if Kenya is to become a developed country. And if done, it will also lead to a major improvement in service delivery in key sectors like health, education, social welfare and infrastructure. It goes without saying that the new administration is already feeling hard-pressed for resources. Only this week, it has borrowed Sh95 billion from the World Bank in the race to meet its obligations. That is a signal that there are hardly sufficient resources to meet public spending needs.

However, the new administration now has an opportunity to turn the narrative around by ensuring that PSs enforce prudent spending. First, this will put to an end the bad old habit of government institutions accumulating pending bills, now running into hundreds of billions. Secondly, it will tame appetite for corruption, which has in the past eaten away at possible gains that the country should have made in its growth trajectory.

With prudent spending, Kenya has the potential to become a developed nation and there are enough countries that public servants here can learn from, starting with the Asian Tigers that declared zero tolerance for corruption. The William Ruto administration should, therefore, build on the momentum it is gathering to put in place structures and policies that will reward prudence and severely punish public officials who squander public resources for private gain.

There is need for the government to establish very early in its tenure that it will have no room for corruption, misappropriation and other forms of fiscal indiscipline. That is why the time to do that is now, when PSs are still fresh in their offices. Indeed, they should be required to sign contracts that bind them to prudence so that the many damning reports published by the Auditor-General every year stop looking like the norm.

Ministries must turn a new chapter in their expenditure. That will require a robust system of checks and balances on the one hand and reward and punishment on the other. That system ought to be put in place sooner rather than later.

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