, NAIROBI, October 29 – Since 2003, Sh44 billion has been allocated to the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) in Kenya. Repeated reports over the past six years have continually demonstrated that this money is not properly managed due to a poor policy and implementation structure.
The CDF Accountability Project has studied the recent report prepared by the National Anti-Corruption Campaign Steering Committee on CDF entitled The Constituency Development Fund: An Examination of Legal, Structural, Management and Corruption Issues in Kenya, and supports many of its findings.
The report rightly calls for the need for an urgent revision to the CDF Act to strengthen the National Management Board, audit CDF accounts, enhance community participation, and improve transparency and accountability of the fund, among other recommendations.
However, we are disturbed that in the same breath the report echoes a call repeatedly made by Parliament to increase CDF from 2.5 percent to 5 percent. This call is premature and CDF funds should only be increased subject to critical changes to ensure accountability in the funds operations, some of which are;
1. Strengthen CDF National Management Board: The CDF National Management Board (NMB) previously known as the National Management Committee, serves as the national administration institution for CDF but is entirely subject to parliament in its operations, and effectively serves as a rubberstamp to the whims of parliament.
Under the present CDF law the Board is ineffective in enforcing compliance to existing regulations, enforcing fiscal discipline and consequently CDF operations are in disarray. The present wrangles over the position of Chief Executive Officer of the Board are occasioned by the poor legal framework governing the fund which undermines the independence of the Board.
2. CDF Operations in disarray: A recent report by the CDF Accountability Project (CAP) found that the NMB is unable to effectively track local CDF expenditures. The research found the poor national administration of CDF expenditure records and uncovered several lapses, contradictions, inaccuracies and omissions in the national progress report, pointing towards critical administrative lapses. It is unacceptable that public funds should be administered devoid of sound management standards and these lapses should be dealt with utmost urgency, prior to the increase of funds.
3. CDF lacks oversight and redress: The NMB has formulated comprehensive Implementation Guidelines but these have been repeatedly flouted by local MPs and their committees. The Controller and Auditor General Reports also indicate that huge sums of CDF funds have been misappropriated. However investigations by the CDF Accountability Project indicate that there has been no action taken on reported cases.
CAP investigations indicate that as of August of this year, the NMB had identified and forwarded to the Kenya Anti-corruption Commission (KACC) nearly forty cases which qualified for further investigation and prosecution. However, only two have so far been taken before the law courts for prosecution by the KACC. A majority of CDF legal cases most of which have either been dismissed or are pending in court have been undertaken as private prosecutions.
Parliament needs to implement a swift, rigorous, effective and transparent CDF disciplinary and redress process as well as strengthen the internal audit capacity of the board. The Board should be compelled to report annually on the status of all complaints and disciplinary cases, and failure of the Board to act should in turn be actionable. In this regard, the provision for an arbitration panel provided in the 2007 CDF Amendments (52.(1,2)) is grossly insufficient.
4. Public locked out of CDF operations: The NACCSC report reinforces the findings of previous, numerous studies that CDF operations are not open to public participation due to partisan interests. Excluding project beneficiaries often results in a sub-optimal product which does not meet local needs. One barrier to effective public participation is the official secrets mentality which shrouds CDF operations.
The CAP Report entitled Exercising the Right to Know-The Constituency Development Fund (CDF) in Nairobi Constituencies CDF Case File Report No 1, September, 2008, called for the urgent institution of a Freedom of Information law, and appealed to Minister of Planning and National Development and the CDF Board to immediately implementing an “open information” policy empowering any member of the public to examine and copy CDF project records without the need for any higher authorisation. The report has been shared with all relevant stakeholders and we anticipate a favorable outcome.
Call to Parliament: Under the present mangled CDF framework there is no clear separation of executive and oversight roles creating a haven for local corruption cartels and consequent gross wastage of public funds. Ultimately accountability in CDF can only be achieved when MPs cede executive power to the National Management Board and relinquish control over the constituency committees. In line with the government’s development plan Vision 2030, it is imperative to ensure that all development schemes comply with the stated objectives of the plan. At present the constituency development Fund does not espouse the objective to achieve ‘transparent, accountable, ethical and results oriented government institutions’ and ‘policy-driven and service focused government institutions’ Kenya Vision 2030,(2007:18)’
The 10th parliament should listen to the voice of the electorate and move with overhaul the CDF law and implementation guidelines.
Wanjiru Gikonyo Is the Coordinator, The CDF Accountability Project