Clear pending bills first, House urges governors
Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021 00:00 | 3 mins read
Hillary Mageka @hillarymageka
MPs have asked county governments to prioritise pending bills as a first charge in the budget implementation cycle for the financial year 2021/22 before embarking on new financial commitments.
The legislators said accumulation of pending bills at the devolved units as well as lack of transparency in reporting of the pending bills since 2013 is hindering development.
This even as they decried that delayed exchequer releases have contributed to loss of unspent resources at the end of each financial year as well as spanning of bills from one financial year to the other.
“County governments have pending bills, which include pending remittances to the County Pension Fund amounting to Sh26 billion as at December 31st 2020 and Sh14.57 billion for the Local Authorities Pension Trust Fund as at November 30th, 2020, as indicated by the Report of the Controller of Budget,” Kieni MP Kanini Kega, who chairs the National Assembly’s Budget and Appropriations Committee said.
“With the ceilings of the recurrent budget remaining the same as in the financial year 2020/21, county governments might have a challenge in settling the pending bills and have insufficient resources to meet statutory requirements and offer other services,” Kega added saying that he hopes the directive by Treasury to all government agencies and counties to clear all verified pending bills by June 30th is adhered to.
Last week, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani reiterated that all verified pending bills must be paid by June 30th before the commencement of the new financial year.
The CS asked Parliament to suspend funds allocations to public entities which do not adhere to his directive.
“Though the national government has made progress in settling the pending bills, we still have challenges with county governments that still owe suppliers huge amounts.
I urge the House to support our efforts towards enforcing compliance in payment of all verified pending bills by the county governments,” the CS said in his 2021/22 budget statement.
Yatani noted that the delays in payment of pending bills to businesses that have offered services to both the national and county government has affected the liquidity of the entities.
“In a number of cases, this has led to the closure of businesses and affected the livelihoods of the suppliers,” the CS observed.
Wading into the matter, Nominated Senator David ole Sankok asked counties to strictly follow the directive from the National Treasury to clear pending bills to alleviate suffering of individuals and businesses.
“The economy is suffocating because of pending bills. Some persons living with disabilities, through what we call Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO) for women, youth and PLWDs, had been awarded tenders in county governments, but have not been paid,” Sankok said, adding that some of them have ended up impoverished. Sankok warned governors not to use devolved funds for campaigns.
The legislators spoke during the debate on County Allocation of Revenue Bill (CARA) (Senate Bill No.30 of 2021) last week.
The County Allocation of Revenue Bill is an annual legislation introduced in accordance with the provisions of Article 218 of the Constitution with the objective of equitably allocating the share of national revenue among the 47 counties.
The Senate, on Thursday June 3rd 2021, passed the County Allocation of Revenue Bill, 2021 with amendments and sought concurrence of the National Assembly on it, in accordance with the provisions of Article 112(1)(b) of the Constitution.
The lawmakers have also asked Senate to effectively play its role of safeguarding devolution by demanding accountability for the funds devolved to counties.
“They represent the 47 counties and their county governments. We know that they are doing a good job.
What we want to ask them is that protecting the interests of the counties must start with demanding accountability for the funds we are sending them to see a clear linkage between monies going and improvement in the lives of the people,” Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Amos Kimunya said.
Majority Whip Emmanuel Wangwe cautioned counties against misusing public resources appropriated to them.