In a bid to fuel progress and enhance local development, eleven counties in Kenya have emerged as frontrunners, collectively contributing over half of the total development spending across all 47 county governments. The latest report from the Controller of Budget (COB) highlights the substantial efforts made by these counties, with a combined investment of Sh12.5 billion in growth initiatives during the six-month period ending December 2023, out of the total Sh24.8 billion allocated for development projects nationwide.

Topping the list of development spenders is Narok County, which allocated Sh2.39 billion towards various development activities, surpassing the combined expenditure of multiple counties. Following closely behind are Nakuru, Turkana, Kwale, and Kitui, with each investing over Sh1 billion in developmental projects during the same period. These counties have demonstrated a strong commitment to advancing infrastructure, education, healthcare, and other critical sectors essential for sustainable growth.

The COB report also sheds light on the proportion of development expenditure relative to the approved annual budgets, with Narok County leading the pack at 52.4 percent, followed by Bomet and Uasin Gishu. Additionally, several counties have made significant strides in maximizing their development budgets, with Kilifi, Marsabit, Kakamega, Uasin Gishu, and Kiambu among the top ten spenders in absolute terms.

Despite these commendable efforts, the overall absorption rate of development funds remains below target, with only 12.2 percent of the annual development budget utilized during the reporting period. This shortfall is attributed to low spending by many counties, with thirteen allocating less than Sh250 million each for development activities over six months. Notably, Taita Taveta and Elgeyo Marakwet were among the lowest spenders, reflecting the disparities in resource allocation and utilization across different regions.

The COB report highlights the challenges posed by delays in fund disbursement from the National Treasury, which have hindered budget implementation and constrained counties’ ability to execute development projects effectively. Despite the availability of Sh142.47 billion out of the allocated Sh385.42 billion equitable share budget by December, representing only 37 percent of the total funds, counties have struggled to meet their expenditure targets due to delayed releases.

In addition to development spending, the COB report underscores the importance of own-source revenue (OSR) generation by counties as a critical source of funding for local initiatives. Five counties, including Nairobi, Narok, Kiambu, Mombasa, and Nakuru, accounted for over half of the total OSR collected, demonstrating their strong revenue mobilization efforts. However, disparities exist, with some counties achieving high collection rates relative to targets, while others lag behind significantly.

To address these disparities and enhance revenue mobilization, the COB emphasizes the need for capacity building among county staff involved in revenue collection and cautions against over-reliance on specific revenue streams, particularly those related to healthcare facilities. By diversifying revenue sources and enhancing fiscal management practices, counties can unlock their full potential for sustainable development and economic growth, ensuring equitable progress across all regions of Kenya.

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