(L-R) Deputy Controller of Budget CPA Stephen Masha, Controller of Budget Dr Margaret Nyakang’o and Daily Nation Journalist David Mwere pose for a photo at the launch of the 3rd Quarter National and County Governments Budget Implementation Review Reports
Pomp and colour marked the media engagement workshop held by the Office of the Controller of Budget in collaboration with Media Houses on Wednesday, 14th June 2023 at Eka Hotel, Nairobi. The event was aimed at discussing the crucial role of media in communicating and reporting on budget implementation-related issues as well as launching and publicizing the 3rd Quarter National and County Governments Budget Implementation Review Reports (BIRRs).
The Controller of Budget Dr. Margaret Nyakang’o noted that this was her first engagement with the media since she joined the office in 2019. She also recognized the need for the public to be enlightened on the existence of OCoB and its role in public finance management and called for the establishment of a collaborative relationship with the media houses. She outlined the objectives of the media engagement workshop as emphasizing the role of media in communicating and reporting budget implementation issues; sensitizing media on the source of OCoB data in a bid to prepare them for reporting on budget issues; providing a platform for engagement and networking between the two entities and launching of the 3rd Quarter Budget Implementation Review Reports for the National and county governments.
Controller of Budget addressing the member of the 4th estate
Dr. Nyakang’o elaborated the mandate of the Controller of Budget and outlined the roles of the office and highlighted the challenges that the office had been facing over the years. Key among them were: delays in receiving financial statements from Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), low funding for the office, failure by national and counties to align budget allocation to actual spending, low revenue mobilization capacity, and frequent supplementary budgets by National and County governments hence undermining the mandate of the office.
Presentation of the report card for the 2022-2023 financial year revealed that the budget performance level was low during the period under review. Dr Nyakang’o attributed this to prolonged electioneering period, the government transition from Jubilee to Kenya Kwanza administration, budget rationalization process, and the intermittent shutdown of the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMIS).
The Controller of Budget addressed the issue of pending bills as one of the emerging issues. She informed the participants that they have been occasioned by the delay in disbursement of equitable share from the National Treasury, change of county administration where new governors have failed to honor the pending bills accumulated by their predecessors, and untimely approval of supplementary budget estimates. The Controller outlined various interventions that have been put in place to curb the persistent issue of pending bills. For instance, she said that the delay in disbursement of funds should be managed and counties should initiate measures to raise own-source revenues to be able to bridge the hidden deficits among other measures.
The Controller of Budget noted that public debt stood at Sh9.39 trillion as at 31st March 2023, an issue that she alluded has been a great challenge to the nation. Of this, Sh4.85 trillion is owed to the external lenders while Sh4.54 trillion is from domestic lenders.
Members of the 4th estate were also keen to understand why counties and most government entities had not conformed with the set budgetary ceilings on their development and current expenditure. The Controller of Budget on her part, explained how these entities had taken advantage of Article 223 of the Constitution to spend allocated funds for line projects without parliamentary approval.
She added that her office had been pursuing the Parliament to strengthen the budgeting framework in order to plug this loophole where supplementary budgets have been used to sneak illegal expenditure, leading to the loss of public funds. “There is a need to tighten the law to end the abuse of Article 223 of the Constitution to ensure that it is only used to fund exceptional and unforeseen expenditures”, she asserted.
Members of the 4th estate engaging with the Controller of Budget
Members of the 4th estate also pointed out that there has been a misconception among the public on the position and influence of the office concerning delayed disbursements of funds. In response, Dr Nyakang’o challenged the members of the press to enlighten the public on the existence of the Office of the Controller of Budget and its role in ensuring prudent financial management. She further charged them to enlighten the citizens on their role in public participation in the budgeting process in a bid to enhance social accountability.
“Kindly mention the Controller of Budget in your newscasts as often as you can, and urge your listeners and viewers to ask me any questions concerning budget implementation; I will be happy to answer”, Dr Nyakang’o affirmed.
In her closing remarks, she expressed optimism and appreciated the members of the press as she presented the 3rd Quarter Budget Implementation Review Reports to mark a new beginning in OCoB’s collaboration with the Media.