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Counties’ wage bill hits Sh37.1bn despite austerity calls

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Economy

Former Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) managing director Evah Oduor. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The counties’ wage bill jumped by a third or Sh9.37 billion in the first three months to September, defying calls for governors to curb ballooning wage bills and free resources for projects.

Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo says in her latest quarterly report that salaries in the 47 counties jumped to Sh37.13 billon from Sh27.75 billion in a similar period a year earlier, reflecting a 33.7 per cent rise.

Pay and allowances accounted for 72.84 per cent of the Sh50.97 billion total expenditure by the counties in the period.

This is the highest wage bill chalked by the counties in the review period since 2013 when Jubilee government took office with a rallying pledge to cut recurrent spend in favour of development projects, which have a multiplier effect on creating job opportunities.

“Nairobi City County reported the highest expenditure on personnel emoluments at Sh3.39 billion, followed by Machakos and Nakuru counties at Sh1.65 billion and Sh1.48 billion, respectively,” Ms Odhiambo says in the report.

“Those with the lowest expenditure on personnel emoluments included Turkana, Lamu and Kajiado at Sh255.72 million, Sh192.05 million and Sh67.23 million, respectively.”

The 2,222 members of the County Assemblies (MCAs) spent Sh423.31 million in committee sitting allowances, a 177.8 per cent jump compared to Sh152.39 million in the same period a year earlier when the country was in an election mood.

Expenditure on the development projects, the report shows, was Sh3.51 billion — meaning for every Sh100 spent by the countries in the July-September period, less than Sh7 went to development projects.

The 72.84 per cent emoluments share of the total expenditure was only lower than in 2017 when counties were not fully functioning.

Operations and maintenance took up 20.27 per cent of the funds, leaving a meagre 6.89 per cent for development.

Low development spend affects project plans such as healthcare, water, waste management and feeder roads — the key devolved functions.

“A total of 24 counties did not incur any expenditure on development activities during the reporting period,” Ms Odhiambo says.

“Unsustainability of county governments’ wage bill is caused mainly by uncontrolled recruitment of non-core personnel without regard to approved staff establishment or remuneration guidelines,” says Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich.

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