Everything you need to know about all counties is now a click away
By Caroline Mwendwa
The Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) whose main task is to recommend the basis for equitable sharing of revenues raised nationally between national and county governments, and among county governments is a critical player in influencing financial decisions both for county and national governments. This responsibility calls for a reliable source of data that provides information on counties and the national populace. It is this need that drove the Commission to establish the integrated devolution data portal. “We realised that even though there was data on various counties and even nationwide, it was so scattered that it was impossible to make a clear analysis of the situation. And therefore we set out to establish a portal that has all the necessary information elaborately analysed and presented, and one that allows for regular update by the stewards at the county level on a real time basis,” explains Mr Joseph Kuria, the director of ICT services at CRA. This portal is one of its kind serving all people including government organisations, NGOs, individuals and all entities seeking to access information that is likely to influence their operational decisions.
“The decision to launch the integrated devolution data portal was informed by the need for accurate and complete data to inform government planning, budgeting, performance measurement and accountability. It is therefore a necessary and critical element of good governance. “Alive to the need of better organizing the vast amounts of data on devolution, and providing a central point of accessing and analyzing this data to inform and support decision-making, CRA saw it prudent and urgent to design and develop an interactive central online portal.”
Key features of the portal
This portal is built on a very unique model; it’s web-based which makes it open to public, unlike those used by the ministry of finance. Secondly, there is an option for real time updating from source which enhances the validity of the data provided.
The counties have a platform to share their latest developments as each of the 47 counties have a ‘county news platform’. This benefits the public who may be seeking to find out up to date information on counties.
The mode in which data in this portal is presented is also easy to interpret as it is in graphics. For instance, to find out which county had the highest revenue from alternative sources, one just needs to click on the portal and check out the graphics showing comparative figures of counties in graphs. More information on each county can also be gotten by clicking on the specific county.
The ease of accessing data from this portal makes it even more convenient and the benefits are reaped by all. “People who want to invest in a certain town for example can now log in to the portal and compare the cost of business in all the counties.”
Another benefit is that the public can now find out the amount of money allocated each county and how much each county has made from alternative sources. Prior to this portal, there was so much misinformation on the amount of money allocated the county governments but individuals can now get it right from our portal without speculating.
The portal not only presents data about revenues but also other information such as the population of children in school per county. “Earlier on, it was difficult to tell the precise number of pupils attending school, in a certain county since even though the data was there it was not centralised,” says Mr Kuria
“The information contained in the portal includes, but is not limited to national and county plans, county revenue legislation, budgets, revenues, expenditures and service delivery indicators. The portal additionally provides access to varied datasets from which raw data can be extracted, processed, analyzed and presented in a manner that easily highlights trends, patterns and helps inform decision making. The portal is user-friendly and the information there in will be readily and easily accessible to all,” explains Mr Kuria.
Key partners of the initiative
Considering the benefits of this portal for various stakeholders, CRA obtained support from a number of players including county governments. However, the financial support for the development of the portal came from the Kenya Association of Manufacturers. “KAM came on board because they had interest in curbing double taxation. By using the data on the portal, they can be able to streamline revenue legislation and trap cases of double taxation on local manufacturers and traders and consequently make interventions.”
The European Union provided the Technical Assistance to develop the data frameworks that informed the development and collation of data within the integrated database. A local company, AESA was contracted to develop the framework.
In an effort to open the portal to the public, the commission has conducted various workshops in various counties including Migori, Kwale, Nairobi, Wajir and Nyeri and is in the process of bringing the other 42 counties on board.
The process of revenue allocation
As a director at CRA, Mr Kuria outlines that revenue allocation to the counties is not the easiest of processes but technology such as this revolutionary portal, are highly instrumental in making it less of a mean feat.
“We face several challenges in this process such as high expectations among counties and the perception that certain communities are marginalized even when they are not,” says Mr Kuria clarifying that allocating revenue among counties is based on equity, and not equality. “Revenue is not allocated equally to all counties simply because there are factors that influence development and these factors vary with location.”
The Commission makes recommendations on sharing of revenues on two fronts:Sharing of revenues between national and county governments and sharing of revenues among the 47 county governments.
With the new Constitution, public expectations are quite high and more specifically with regard to the equitable revenue sharing among the counties.
Managing these expectations is a major challenge for the Commission. In developing the formula, the Commission bridged these expectations by engaging the public and other stakeholders in all the 47 counties. In the end, the parameters and weights used in horizontal revenue allocation formula is a product of that public consultation.
The challenges experienced by the Commission in making recommendations on the basis for equitable sharing of revenues are largely political.
“The sharing of resources is also very political and hence attracts a lot of political interests from both national assembly and the senate. The commission has to engage all the political stakeholders and lobby their support before the recommended formula is tabled in both houses from enactment into law.”
On sharing of revenues between national and county governments, there are a myriad of challenges.One of them is transfer of functions without adequate funding. A case in point is the transfer of additional roads to county governments (class D roads) and Libraries without adequate financing. This matter is being addressed through established intergovernmental mechanisms, notably the SUMMIT, a forum chaired by the president.
Secondly, there is lack of clarity on what constitutes national interest for purposes of sharing revenues. Whereas the Commission and indeed CIC are of the view that national interest is not synonymous with national government functions, the national Treasury has maintained huge allocations to national government functions such as NYS and provision of Laptops to children, denying county government the much needed revenue to run village polytechnic and early childhood development
And third is supremacy wars between the National Assembly and the Senate. The two houses have always approved different revenue allocations resulting in prolonged negotiations through mediation committees.
On sharing of revenues among county governments, the Commission has had challenges with: Unreliable data and resistance to changes in the revenue sharing criteria.
These are some of the challenges the commission has to contend with and which require new approaches to solve.
Other initiatives driven by the commission
Apart from launching the portal, the Revenue Allocation Commission has engaged in several other initiatives.The commission has been very aggressive in the growth and enhancement of the County Government Own Source revenue. To this end the Commission has been in the forefront in helping the counties in the revenue automation. The commission has developed and disseminated to the counties automation models and helped them in the evaluation of their systems. “We are helping them identify other sources of revenue and set up their own data base for these revenues as well as helping them collect reliable data,” Mr Kuria elaborates.
The success of devolution is dependent on key principles enshrined in the Constitution chief among them being public participation, transparency, stakeholder engagement and cooperation. The Integrated Devolution Data Portal is poised to promote and advance these key principles by providing a dynamic central online repository of data and information on fiscal aspects of devolution whilst enabling attendant analysis to inform and support decision-making.