Startling tale of unspent funds in Kenya

When it comes to utilising our budgetary allocations, I would say that as a country we have what a famous CEO referred to as ‘peculiar habits’.

Our actions or lack thereof, seem to defy logic and the natural order of demand generating leads and avenues of supply.

It saddens me that on the one extreme we have great need everywhere around us. In fact, there is no use in naming specific sectors because virtually each one of them could use a much needed financial boost.

On the other extreme, we have this great vision of what we would want to achieve by the year 2030. Yet, we can’t seem to marry the two and create a bridge from one end to the other utilising every available resource along the way.

How do we account for the fact that the unspent funds could actually make up 30percent of the total development budget? Couldn’t the inability of the government to facilitate absorption of these funds actually be considered non-performance? How do we hold them accountable for this failure?

I think that our problem as a country lies in our inability to see the bigger picture. We have a grand vision but are unable to conceptualise it. At the ministerial level, we are unable to see the consequences of our actions and inactions today and how they affect the end goal. Might it be that Performance contracts have lost their usefulness due to the fact that political clamour takes precedence over a development agenda? This is a point to consider.

Whatever the excuses given, it might be noteworthy for the government to begin by creating awareness of what this failure means for Kenya. Let us for instance conduct a case study of other countries; both developing and emerging economies, showing their ability to absorb and utilise their financial resources.

Let us then benchmark our progress against the results and see if we actually have enough momentum to achieve vision 2030. This should be a wake-up call and should force us into cutting out the undesirable red-tape.

Secondly, I’d want us to learn from our Chinese friends. A decade ago, we did not feel the formal Chinese presence in Kenya as much as we do now. Although part of this presence could be attributed to Kenya sourcing for other donor partners, it also could be attributed to a change of strategy by their own government.

Their government, knowing very well its limitations, decided one way they could make inroads into other emerging markets was by facilitating their people to go ahead of them. They embarked on integrating the commercial and private arms of their people into government operations to achieve greater economic scale.

This should be the same for Kenya. Our government needs to engage more in similar partnerships that utilise each respective partner’s comparative advantage to achieve greater efficiency. It is not logical for GOK to expect that it would excel at being both donor and implementer of public programs.

To each, assign according to his expertise and there are areas where government thrives more. Ideally, the Public Private Partnership model should be utilised more especially now that the new constitution is in place, and it is easier to monitor effectiveness at regional level.

Having given that example, I’d like to issue a word of caution. Even as we look to the east for much desired assistance with major infrastructure projects, we ought to take this experience as a learning one. PPPs cannot work optimally in the future unless we build local capacity in our own private sector to handle such major projects.

Unless we get into partnerships that promote transfer of technology, skills, standards, quality etc, we will forever be reliant on foreign partners. No matter how much such partnerships contribute to achieving our goals, they will still be a mile short of achieve our entire vision of self-sufficiency.

I am of the opinion that there is much harm done by our country’s inability to absorb all budgetary allocations, and as citizens we ought to demand for higher performance levels. Otherwise, we are just shooting ourselves in the foot while expecting to run a marathon.

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