By Sharon Atieno

Though the Public Finance Management (PFM) Act, 2012 calls for publication of various budget documents by counties within given timelines, a review of the county government websites indicates that counties are still lagging behind with the exception of Elgeyo Marakwet.

The study conducted by the International Budget Partnership Kenya (IBPK), looked at seven documents which should have been published and publicized on county government websites between July 1st, 2018 and January 31st, 2019.

These documents include : Approved Program Based Budget 2018/19, Citizen Budget (Enacted Budget) 2018/19, Annual Development Plan (ADP) 2019/20, County Budget Review and Outlook Paper (CBROP) 2018, Quarterly Budget Implementation Report for the First Quarter of 2018/19, Quarterly Budget Implementation Report for the Second Quarter of 2018/19 and Finance Act 2018.

Out of the 47 counties in Kenya, Elgeyo Marakwet is the only county where all the seven documents are available on the website, with Laikipia and West Pokot following closely by publicizing six out of the seven documents.

However, Bomet, Garissa, Lamu, Kirinyaga, Kisumu, Migori and Wajir did not publish any of the documents under assessment.

The Annual Development Plan (ADP) anchors county annual budgets, describing how the county government is responding to current and emerging economic issues. According to the assessment, there has been a rise in the number of counties publishing their ADPs from 4 to 30 since 2015.

In the County Budget Review and Outlook Paper (CBROP) 2018, 26 have been published online, an improvement from just eight in 2017. The CBROP reviews the performance of actual budget implementation during the previous fiscal year while also giving updated economic indicators for budget performance in the current fiscal year with provisional maximum limit for the coming fiscal year. This information is crucial as it allows the public to understand government priorities and permits government departments to prepare their proposals for the upcoming budget.

The study reveals that a total of 11 counties had their approved program-based budget (PBB) for the financial year 2018/19 published online. The PBB is a critical document which when read together with county budget implementation reports, citizens can track budget implementation against approved expenditure during the course of the year.

The Citizen Budget summarizes the budget in to a shorter, less technical version that gives the public a general overview of the county’s revenue and spending priorities. According to the study, only 13 counties had published this document online.

With regards to the Finance Act 2018, only 10 counties had publicized approved Finance acts in their county websites. This document lays out county governments’ plans to collect revenue that will meet their expenditure targets for the financial year.

The First and Second quarter Budget Implementation Reports for financial year 2018/19 were the least published budget documents on county websites according to the assessment. Only five out of 47 counties published both reports while four counties published one or the other. The quarterly Budget Implementation Reports are used to monitor if money is being spent as planned.

The study cautions that though there is gradual improvement in the number of budget documents that counties are making available on their websites, there is still more to be done with 28 out of 47 counties publishing less than three of the seven budget documents.

In the overall county performance, the study reveals that there is a need for counties to be more proactive in publishing and publicizing key budget documents on their websites, especially those related to monitoring implementation – particularly the counties that did not publish any documents.

For the public to understand the decisions being made by governments, and justifications for different priorities funded in county budgets, citizens need access to budget information. There is still a lot that Kenya’s counties need to do to facilitate this, the study concludes.