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Friday, July 29, 2011

MPs rush to spend Sh23bn CDF cash

A CDF handbook on how to monitor and account for the funds. MPs are rushing to spend the CDF cash. Photo/FREDRICK ONYANGO
A CDF handbook on how to monitor and account for the funds. MPs are rushing to spend the CDF cash. Photo/FREDRICK ONYANGO 
Posted  Friday, July 29  2011 at  13:31
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Members of Parliament are racing against the clock as they plan to spend Sh23 billion issued to the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) in the current fiscal year.
The lawmakers are keen to execute new projects in their constituencies and complete the stalled ones in a move that is likely to appease their constituents and cajole the voters into giving them one more term in the next General Election due next year.
A recent poll revealed that more than half the MPs in the current Parliament will lose their seats in the election.
The focus on the CDF was renewed on Friday when the newly–reconstituted CDF Committee unanimously re-elected Turkana Central MP Ekwee Ethuro (PNU) as the chairman, with Mr John Pesa (Migori, ODM) as the deputy chairman.
Ms Martha Karua, the only woman in the committee –who ideally, given the gender consideration in the Constitution, should have taken up the vice chair’s slot—backed Mr Pesa saying that her commitment to the committee was likely to be derailed given her pursuit for the presidential bid.
Senior Deputy Clerk PC Owino Omollo conducted the elections at Parliament Buildings.
With the committee now firmly in place, it summoned the Minister of Planning Wycliffe Oparanya for an urgent meeting to ensure that all the money allocated for the current Budget –the Sh23 billion—is used to improve the lives of Kenyans.
Mr Ethuro said that MPs and the minister were concerned that without the National CDF Board being in place, there was a likelihood that the money won’t be spent on crucial CDF projects.
Most of the projects under CDF have to do with irrigation, education, health and infrastructure development in each of the country’s 210 constituencies, before the end of the fiscal year.
This is the last full financial year that the current MPs have the monopoly of the projects in their constituencies, because, next year, they’ll have to share their clout with their successors should they lose their seats in the poll.
“We’re racing against time, so we need to expedite the process of setting up the board to ensure that project proposals from individual constituencies are approved,” said Mr Ethuro at Parliament Buildings shortly after his re-election.
He added that he expects the minister to submit names of the nominees to the new Board, which will have to be approved by Parliament before it takes up the job.
“It will be some kind of vetting of all the nominees to the Board before they are approved by the House. We also need to approve the budget of the Board, which under the law is about three per cent of the total allocation to CDF,” said Mr Ethuro, who was also the chairman of the committee, until it was reconstituted by the House on Thursday evening.
Mr Pesa, who takes over from Moses Lessonet (Eldama Ravine MP) as vice chairman, added: “Without the board, the Chief Executive cannot function; she can’t even approve money for the projects. So we need a board in place as soon as possible.”
According to Mr Ethuro, this time round, MPs are keen to ensure that all the allocations to their constituencies are spent well and that the projects are also completed within the financial year.
The government has been keen to ensure that even the stalled projects are concluded in readiness for their being handed over to the counties.
“The government added more money for the incomplete projects, many of them to do with the economic stimulus package,” said Mr Ethuro.
The economic stimulus package proposed the construction of roads, health centres, fresh produce markets, fishponds and an upgrade of schools into Centres of Excellence.
However, because of the vagaries of the long-winded process of public procurement and a tussle between Parliament and the government on the rollout of the projects, most were not completed on schedule.
It has been argued in many quarters that the success of CDF in building schools, dispensaries, grading roads, building bridges, boreholes and bringing piped water to remote villages was one of the reasons why Kenyans overwhelmingly endorsed the new Constitution that harbours the promise of devolution.
Under the current laws, CDF takes 2.5 per cent of all government revenue and sends it to the constituencies, while the devolved system enshrined in the Constitution –though suspended until after the next polls—directs that a minimum of 15 per cent of revenue be devolved to the 47 counties.
The new CDF Committee has Mr Ethuro as the chairman, Mr Pesa as the deputy, Ms Karua and MPs Abdi Nuh Nassir (Bura), Francis Nyammo (Tetu), Nkoidila ole Lankas (Narok South), Nicolas Gumbo (Rarieda), Justus Kizito (Shinyalu), Alfred Sambu (Webuye), Manson Nyamweya (South Mugirango), and Charles Kilonzo (Yatta).
Mr Nyammo, Mr Lankas, Mr Kizito, Mr Sambu, Mr Nyamweya and Mr Kilonzo did not attend the meeting, but according to the Standing Orders, the quorum for a committee meeting is three, and therefore, according to those who voted in the election say it is legitimate.
Mr David Ngugi (Kinangop) attended the election as an observer –he has no voting rights because he is not a member of the committee.

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