NAIROBI, September 28 –The Parliamentary Committee on Constituency Development Fund (CDF), intends to conduct an ‘independent audit’ of the fund.,
Committee chairman Ekwe Ethuro said the move follows complaints that the fund has not been audited since its launch in 2003.
He said his team had constituted three sub-committees on CDF, one of which is in charge of auditing the fund, to monitor how the money is being used in all constituencies.
Ethuro told Capital News that though the money is audited, the current auditing outfit bestows the responsibility to internal audit structures headed by regional managers of individual constituencies.
“There have been quite a lot of complaints and we are thinking that maybe, the current audit function is inadequate,” Ethuro said.
He said Constituency Development Fund Committees (CDFCs), under the stewardship of the Parliamentary committee had proposed the engagement of private auditors due to a limited capacity at the office of the Auditor General.
The chairman said the committee between July and August inducted numerous CDFCs on managing the fund and is expecting to review development reports from individual constituencies in October, after which it will communicate with the Auditor General‘s office.
The Turkana Central Member of Parliament (MP) however acknowledged that since the inception of the fund, it has been a practice that money released to constituencies is regulated, based on the balance in individual constituency accounts.
This assumes that a constituency which has a balance in excess of Sh10 million, cannot receive any additional funding from the government. Similarly, there are monthly reports on the status of ongoing projects from which the committee tracks the use of development funds.
He added that among the propositions in the next financial year, the committee would provide every constituency with computers to record projects and other relevant information, besides networking all CDF offices countrywide to aid the monitoring process.
Access to CDF information
Mr Ethuro’s remarks came in the wake of a report detailing the status of CDF projects within Nairobi Province, which was compiled by a local non–governmental organisation called The CDF Accountability Project.
The report, which emanated from a research conducted within the eight constituencies in Nairobi revealed that most CDF projects were going un-audited, thereby presenting a ‘daunting state of affairs’, with regard to management of public funds.
In an interview with Capital News, CDF Accountability Project Coordinator, Wanjiru Gikonyo said the underlying problem bugging the fund was an overly ‘poor administration’, which had led to enormous losses, and lack of accountability.
Mrs Gikonyo added that there was sheer reluctance among concerned officials to divulge any useful information that may enable one to follow closely how the money is utilised.
“In most constituencies we went to, we found out that accessing information was pretty hard. When you ask for any books, you are told that you have to see the MP who refers you back to the constituency,” said Mrs Gikonyo.
She urged for adoption of ‘good operational practices, such as enhanced record keeping and constant filing of progress reports on the fund, besides sanctioning ‘a defined disciplinary outfit’ that would reprimand any wrong doing.
Currently, misappropriation can only be arbitrated by Kenya Anti Corruption Commission, which is expected to investigate any case arising, and subjecting it to the due process of law but Ethuro says this would change, because the committee is in the process of creating an arbitration process that will create a CDF complaints office.
Freedom of Information Bill
The coordinator noted that among the recommendations made toward improvement management of the fund, enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill in Parliament would go a long way in improving transparency in the management of public funds.
‘We have requested the concerned minister to ensure that the Bill is published because it is very important,” Ethuro said.
Meanwhile, Mr Ethuro said the committee had also initiated plans to improve the CDF website by December this year to ensure that all information concerning CDF is made available online.
CDF constitutes 2.5 percent of government income that is distributed to all the 210 constituencies to aid development projects, aimed at alleviating poverty as part of government strategy to achieve industrialization by year 2030.
Devolution of development funds came in 2003 as a new concept in the country and though there is no definite model elsewhere, stakeholders are confident that it if workable.
In India, development funds are entrusted with members of parliament to undertake projects on behalf of the constituents. Tanzania intends to initiate devolution of local development funds beginning the next financial year, whereas Uganda and Rwanda also run specialised outfits in which funds are devolved to grassroots through varied means.