BY PETER KENNETH
Over the last 10 years, the annual revenue for the government has grown from about Sh180 billion to over Sh1 trillion last year. This shows a significant growth of our economy as well as significant improvement in our revenue collection processes. This also means that we have more resources available for use in running the machinery of state and for development.
The new constitutional dispensation has established devolved units of government and consequently increased the decentralisation of funds. With the allocations to county governments, the Equalisation Fund and the Constituency Development Fund, a minimum of 18 percent of national revenues are sent to the local level.
The devolution of power and the subsequent decentralisation of funds are intended to result in stronger local government that is responsive to the needs of the people. As stated before, taxes are what a society pays for services. Therefore, while the government has the right to levy and collect taxes from its citizens, the people equally have the right to get the services they pay for. The use of public funds at the national, county or constituency level must therefore visibly contribute to socio-economic development by way of service delivery for the people. However, numerous concerns have been raised recently about how the funds are being used especially at the county level.
Kenya’s public finance management system is guided by the need for effective and efficient use of our limited resources. As set out in the law, our public finance management is based on the need for transparent, accountable, ethical, and result oriented government. This is particularly important at this time when we need to invest in security, infrastructure, education and health care in order to address the challenges of food insecurity and unemployment that continue to plague us 50 years after independence. Every penny must therefore not only be fully accounted for but all public funds must be employed to give the maximum benefit to the people of Kenya now and in the future. The interests of the people are paramount.
Nevertheless, if there is anything we have learnt about governance in Kenya especially with regard to accountability and transparency, it is that talk is cheap. We have spoken about corruption for many years and even spent resources to establish a legal and institutional framework to deal with it. From a new Constitution whose entire sixth chapter addresses question of ethics and integrity to a new and independent Judiciary as well as a new an Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, we have more that we need to address the challenge of corruption and institute a culture of transparency and accountability.
Furthermore, with what is supposed to be the most independent Legislature in our history, we should be able to exercise better oversight on executive arms of government at both the national and county levels. This is hardly the case. What we see instead are battles for supremacy between government organs which leaves the ordinary Kenya citizen worse off at every decision point.
Going forward, we should see concerted efforts from all three arms of government the Judiciary, Parliament and County Assemblies, the Executive at both levels of government to enhance the accountability of public servants. The leadership of these different organs must sit and talk to each other to avert a constitutional crisis in the coming days. This process must go beyond flexing muscle and grandstanding and be guided by the law and anchored on a genuine concern for the public good. We must learn to disagree with civility.
The importance of respect for the rule of law by individual citizens and state organs cannot possibly be overemphasized. While all government institutions must respect each other, it is especially important that the place of the Judiciary as the neutral arbiter be recognised.
(Kenneth was a presidential candidate in the 2013 General Election)