Created by an act of parliament in 2003 to fight poverty at the grassroots level through the implementation of community based projects which have long term effects of improving the peoples' economic welfare, the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), an ingenious innovation of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) Government of Kenya, is a great idea.
It was utmost a relief to Members of Parliament (MPs) from the heavy demands of fund-raising for projects which ought to be financed through the Consolidated Fund. Unlike other development funds that filter from the central government through larger and more layers of administrative organs and bureaucracies, funds under this program are meant to go directly to local levels.
It means the design of disbursing such funds, through such simple procedures intends to provide those in the grassroots with the opportunity to make expenditure decisions that maximize their welfare consistent with the theoretical predictions of decentralization theory.
Increasingly, however, concerns about the utilization of funds under this program indicate far contrary lines. Most of the concerns have continued to revolve around issues of allocation efficiency.
These concerns have become outstandingly some of the constituency characteristics that impact on the efficiency and efficacy of CDF and also some political economy aspects associated with this program.
In particular, the fund has negative outcomes because of fiscal illusion and reduced local fiscal effort. This is evident in the remote parts of Kenya such as Makueni (code 075), which according to the fiscal year 2005/2006 CDF had a share of Ksh. 42,300,555.
In this area plainly brought to bare during dry seasons, there is no in-depth analysis of constituency characteristics that impact on the utilization of funds to ensure that the program achieves its full potential (Refer to University of Connecticut, Department of Economics series of Working papers).
However, marginalized areas that have continued to get low CDF funding include Isiolo South (Ksh.26,764,686), Isiolo North (Ksh.29,873,550) and Moyale (Ksh.29,460,196) among others. This is a clear manifestation the criteria of distribution or whatever it is, has an element of "political" attachment to a particular constituency-which is ambiguous for a government development program.
After realizing that Uganda was either not ready for the program or simply wanted to ignore it, the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, decided that the MPs are given Shs2m worth of CDF. With it, he declared that the funds were simply meant to help the legislators mobilize their constituencies.
Of course this was open politics because Shs2m in Uganda can afford to transport an MP to one of the upcountry districts plus welfare and it is finished. That is why after the campaigns and elections, the issue has never been followed.
Due to widespread irregularities in the CDF program, Kenyans in most poverty stricken areas that need urgent intervention in terms of finances, water and agro-machinery to sustain them during harsh weather periods in most cases do not get any assistance from the government. Instead, it is the civil societies like Inter region Economic Network (IREN) that make humanitarian interventions by investing in areas where they will never be refunded.
Although The CDF Act, 2003 providing for the establishment and operation of the Act suggests that the fund is essentially a model for decentralization of development planning and implementation, people are never consulted by their MPs on investments to be established in the constituencies. In this case, the organization and operation of the fund becomes inversely proportional to the demands of the people, meaning it lies not squarely within the domain of administrative decentralization.
The Act in its legal framework that stipulates how the fund operates, the financial and procurement procedures, projects identification, planning and implementation and monitoring and evaluation processes, gives absolute control of the funds to the MPs.
It makes the legal and institutional framework become complimentary to any other development efforts by the Government or any other agency but not to the interests of the people especially those designated as target beneficiaries.
This implies that the main purpose of the fund of ensuring that a specific portion of the Annual Government Ordinary Revenue is devoted to the Constituencies for purposes of development and in particular in the fight against poverty at the constituency level can only be realized after a review of the legal framework to take keen views of the people.
Nevertheless, the vagueness of Section 19 (1) of the CDF Act 2003 providing the basis of the Constituency Development Fund budget allocations makes significant unequal distribution of resources. Some parts of Kenya, especially the northern rift valley, still live under the poverty line yet the distribution has never indicated a rising curve. In addition, huge monies paid to the monitors of the fund could be reduced, half of which could play a great role towards improving lives of the poor.
For instance, a total of Ksh.7.246 billion has been allocated for fiscal year 2005/2006 of which three percent has been set aside for the National Management Committee which is equivalent to Ksh.217.380 million. Half of this whopping 217.80 can transform lives of over 1 million poor Kenyans by helping them start low and medium income projects.
The motive of governments to ensure a specific proportion of the annual Government ordinary revenue is effectively devoted to the constituencies for the purpose of development is falling far below targets. In order to reverse the trend, the program should stop being remote controlled by MPs but be made people centered.
Under the CDF, participatory approaches by all stakeholders constituents should be the key in enhancing transparency, accountability, equity in resource distribution, which would eventually lead to prudent expenditure since the funds will be spent in line with the demands of target beneficiaries.
By Robert Mukombozi
Comment on this article!