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ODHIAMBO, ONYANGO & OTIENO: Manage county assets, liabilities better

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By PAUL ODHIAMBO
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By CHRISTOPHER ONYANGO
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By MANASEH OTIENO
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Management of assets and liabilities is a key pillar of any Public Finance Management system.

Its effectiveness ensures public investments provide value for money, assets are recorded and managed efficiently, risks are identified and debts and guarantees prudently planned, approved and monitored.

Good practice includes fiscal risk reporting, public investment management, public asset management and debt management.

Promotion of social and economic development is one of the objectives of devolution.

Section 15(2a) of the Public Finance Management (PFM) Act 2012 requires at least 30 per cent of the budget to be allocated for development.

However, most county governments are yet to develop effective tools for economic analysis and technical analytical methods for assessing the main investment projects. They employ need-based analysis and public participation.

Many counties have not developed standard procedures to guide investment project selection. Instead, costing is based on ceilings set by County Treasury and Budget and Appropriation Committee.

Cost projections of major projects for the current year and the next are included in the budget, but recurrent costs hardly appear in the budget documents.

A Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (Kippra) assessment in 2017 showed that most counties do not identify fiscal risks associated with unfavourable macroeconomic situations, financial positions of their public corporations and contingent liabilities.

Investment initiatives and projects are also often not based on any analytical appraisal methods. Rather, county assemblies have the final say on the projects.

Mortgages and car loan schemes have been rolled out for members of county assemblies, but there are no clear mechanisms or framework for repayment compliance.

But the counties rarely provide guarantees for student, mortgage, agriculture and small-scale business loans, among others.

Nonetheless, they pay statutory social security schemes, including NSSF and NHIF.

Besides, entities such as the early childhood development education and technical training institutes receive development funding, but do not present the expenditures from fees for scrutiny by the executive.

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Counties’ financial assets are mostly cash and cash equivalents. Revenues are deposited in County Revenue Fund accounts in commercial banks and Central Bank accounts.

Most counties have automated or are automating systems to increase efficiency in collection, increase coverage and reduce pilferage of revenue.

But investments in other forms of financial assets such as securities, bonds, loans and receivables is yet to take root in the counties.

A number of counties keep an asset register for non-financial assets such as those acquired since devolution began in 2013.

However, the non-financial registers are incomplete, as they do not include all properties inherited from the defunct local authorities.

Some counties were still relying on the 2015 Transition Authority Report for Assets and Liabilities. Therefore, they should engage the IGRTC to finalise transfers of assets, liabilities and pending bills.

Most counties rely on the Public Procurement and Assets Disposal (PPAD) Act 2015 for transfers and disposal of their assets while many have not developed supplementary procedures for disposal.

Nevertheless, Makueni has adopted the disposal procedure and incorporated it in the County Financial Regulation and Procedures Manual.

Article 212 of the Constitution, Section 123 of the PFM Act and County PFM Regulation (2015) permit counties to borrow domestically and externally, but there is a moratorium.

Loans have to be guaranteed by the national government and approved by the county assembly.

Development of Debt Management Strategy (DMS) is at various stages among the county governments.

DMS should assume underlying debt management, total debt stock, sources of loans, principal risks associated with loans, analysis of the sustainability of debt and debt servicing framework.

Whereas it is possible that counties might not have incurred debts, most of them inherited debts from the defunct local authorities, hence the need to develop a debt management framework.

The ones available seem to lack mechanisms of handling financial liabilities arising from domestic, foreign and guaranteed loans.

County governments should develop standard procedures and guidelines for public investment management, capacity building of their officers in charge of public investments for effective economic analysis of investment projects, project selection, project costing, and monitoring and evaluation.

Messrs Odhiambo, Onyango and Otieno are policy analysts at the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (Kippra). [email protected]



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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