In recent discussions, Mr. Jimmy Wanjigi has raised concerns about the adherence of the Kenyan government to the constitution in relation to the budget process since 2013. Specifically, he focuses on the definition of a budget as outlined in Article 220(1) of the Kenyan Constitution and Article 37(9) of the Public Finance Management Act, 2012. It is essential to scrutinize his assertions and evaluate their merit.

Article 220(1) of the Constitution of Kenya explicitly states that a budget must include estimates of revenue and expenditure, distinguishing between recurrent and development expenditure. Additionally, it should present proposals for financing any anticipated deficit for the applicable period and suggestions regarding borrowing and other forms of public liability that will contribute to an increase in public debt in the subsequent year. The National Treasury has consistently fulfilled these requirements, incorporating the stipulated proposals and estimates as mandated by law. Consequently, the constitution has not been violated, a point which Mr. Wanjigi himself acknowledges. However, it is in the actualization of these budget estimates through the Appropriations Bill, as defined in Article 37 of the PFM Act, where Mr. Wanjigi finds fault.

Mr. Wanjigi’s central argument revolves around the interpretation of Article 37(9) of the PFM Act, which states, “Upon approval of the budget estimates by the National Assembly, the Cabinet Secretary shall prepare and submit an Appropriation Bill of the approved estimates to the National Assembly.” He contends that the term “budget estimates” in this context encompasses both revenue and expenditure estimates. Consequently, he argues that the Appropriation Bills, which have only included expenditure estimates, are in contravention of the law.

Nevertheless, a careful examination of Article 221 of the Kenyan Constitution, entitled “budget estimates and annual Appropriation Bill,” should provide clarity on this matter. Article 221(6) stipulates that once the estimates of national government expenditure, as well as the estimates of expenditure for the Judiciary and Parliament, have been approved by the National Assembly, they must be included in an Appropriation Bill. This bill authorizes the withdrawal of funds from the Consolidated Fund to cover the necessary expenses and appropriates the allocated money for the mentioned purposes.

This underscores the fact that an Appropriation Bill should solely illustrate how the government intends to spend the funds, focusing on expenditure estimates rather than revenue estimates. Information regarding the government’s plans to finance the expenditures is contained in a document titled “Estimates of Revenue, Grants, and Loans,” prepared by the National Treasury and submitted annually to the National Assembly. Once approved by the National Assembly, the final figures determine the government’s spending limits, which are then reflected in the Appropriations Bill. Consequently, it is unnecessary to include revenue estimates in the Appropriations Bill, both from a practical standpoint and in line with the intentions of the drafters of our Constitution.

In fact, the Appropriations Bill 2023 itself explicitly defines its purpose at the very beginning, stating, “AN ACT of Parliament to authorize the issuance of a sum of money out of the Consolidated Fund and its application towards the service of the year ending on the 30th June 2024 and to appropriate that sum and a sum voted on account by the National Assembly for certain public services and purposes.” Consequently, the Bill’s true essence lies in showcasing how the government intends to allocate revenues, grants, and loans within a specific timeframe. Based on a comprehensive reading of the constitution, I respectfully disagree with Mr. Jimmy Wanjigi’s claim that the budgets have contravened the Constitution of Kenya.

These debates are important. It is crucial to engage in a thorough analysis of constitutional provisions and legislative acts to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the budget process in Kenya. While Mr. Wanjigi’s concerns are legitimate, a careful examination of the relevant sections of the Constitution and the PFM Act reveals that the budget process, as currently implemented, remains in compliance with the constitutional requirements. Such discussions contribute to a healthy and informed public discourse, ensuring accountability and transparency in the government’s fiscal operations.

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