Category : Naya Blog
By Robert Aseda, (@Varaq)
The budget making process has for a long time been thought to be a technical process of numbers where only technocrats and numbers guru could be part of. Indeed, in the former dispensation, the first time Kenyans came into contact with the budgets was when the Finance Minister, in a nice suit complete with a boutonnière, stepped into parliament and read it. And even then majority of Kenyans did not understand still what the numbers meant. A financial analyst had to explain what the budget meant for the farmer and for the price of milk, who were the biggest losers and gainers.
However, the promulgation of the new constitution and the onset of devolution provided unprecedented opportunity for Kenyans to interrogate the budgets before they are passed, make meaningful recommendations and participate in accountability mechanisms.
However three budget cycles later, public participation in budget making processes is still bogged down by limited public interest, disillusionment and deliberate hurdles by the executive despite legal provisions. Whereas the excuse in the previous cycles has been on weak systems and structures to ensure meaningful public participation, the narrative cannot stand now.
County governments must open their doors for the public to interrogate their plans, and not merely to be seen but with the genuine desire to collect their ideas and integrate them into their development plans. Whereas not all ideas are feasible and practical, county governments must explain their criteria for accepting or rejecting submissions that have been made.
In the proposed budgets for the next financial year, counties have planned to spend heavily on administration especially in the governor’s office and travels as opposed to development.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But In line with program based budgeting, a requirement of the Public Finance Management Act 2012, there should be a story behind the numbers. Like why for example the county feel that it is prudent to spend more on an office more than it spends on people. It should be clear to any Kenyan who doesn’t have much knowledge on the budgets the rationale behind reducing the budgetary allocation to a sector while increasing allocation to another sector.
But most urgently, we need to prevent the ailing healthcare system, a key devolved function of the county governments, from crumbling down right on our watch. That the cancer had already gotten into the sector before devolution isn’t in doubt. However, counties cannot afford to do nothing as the malady spread furiously.
One key area of concern is preventive and promotive medicine. A quick analysis of most county budgets reveal that most have not allocated significant resources into youth and adolescent health, reproductive health, community health systems, family planning among other essential services preferring to wait for water from the donor’s taps.
If we are to harness demographic dividend and realize Vision 2030, we cannot afford to neglect this key population that is critical to making this happen. Family Planning, for example, is a program that must be adequately funded. Before devolution, the national government had a deliberate budget line for family planning. However, after devolution, this budget line was dropped by most counties despite bold evidence of its usefulness.
A study by National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) and Population Reference Bureau (2012) estimates that by investing 5.3 billion Kenya Shillings on contraception, The government will be able to save 8.6 billion Shillings on education, 5.6 billion Kenya Shillings on maternal health, 2.8 billion in immunization, 2.7 billion shillings on water and sanitation and 600 million shillings on malaria. This translates to a saving of 20.3 billion shillings by 2015, much more than the initial investment.
But most importantly, this discussion on budgets and prioritization must be taken at mama mboga’s doorstep including with budgetary allocation for civic education and public trainings on the budget making process.
This Article was Published in The Standard Newspaper, 26th May 2015
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