Back to Africa Check

How Kenyatta mangled his numbers on Kenyan counties’ development spend

This article is more than 5 years old

Unsmiling and flanked by county governors, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered striking Kenyan nurses back to work, as he pushed back against their demands for more pay.

Most taxpayer money was spent on regular bills such as salaries and maintenance rather than on public projects, he said in a national address in February 2019.

“In the 2017/2018 financial year alone, as an example, our county governments spent approximately 87.3% of their entire budgets on recurrent expenditure, leaving only a meagre 12.7% for development,” Kenyatta said.

The nurses have since complied with a court order to suspend their damaging three-week strike as talks continue.

But do the 47 counties, which are responsible for most Kenyan health institutions, spend nine of every ten shillings on bills such as salaries?

Numbers from budget controller’s office

Africa Check asked the presidency for the source of Kenyatta’s figures. “Those numbers came from the controller of budget,” Kanze Dena, the State House spokesperson, said.

The independent office of the controller of budget authorises all spending of public funds. It issues regular reports on spending by national and county governments.  

The office told Africa Check that data on county spending could be found on its website.

Shortfalls mean less money for counties

Its latest spending report is for the 2017/18 financial year, from July 2017 to June 2018.

In that period the 47 county governments approved a budget of KSh410.5 billion. Of this, 66.1% (KSh271.32 billion) was for recurrent expenditure and 33.9% (KSh139.18 billion) for growth projects.

By law, at least 30% of the budget should go to development programmes.

But shortfalls meant only KSh387.09 billion was available to counties. This was made up of money from the central government (known as equitable share), grants, their own revenue and unspent funds from the 2016/17 financial year.

Ambitious budgets, not enough funds

The shortages were a result of optimistic funding projections, John Kinuthia, lead research analyst at budget think tank International Budget Partnership, told Africa Check.

“If counties approve ambitious budgets and those are in turn pegged on ambitious revenue collections targets, when you don’t meet those targets, there will be a gap in your spending plans,” he said.

For example, the counties budgeted for KSh49.22 billion in own revenue but only managed to collect KSh32.49 billion.

Delays in donor payments and an inability to meet the conditions required for some types of funding were other reasons given by the budget office.

Was the president right?

In a nutshell, no. According to the controller of budget, the 47 counties spent 57.8% of their budgets on regular expenditure such as salaries in the last financial year, not 87.3% as Kenyatta said.

For development, the spending was 48.1%, not 12.7% as the president gave in his address.

For a more detailed breakdown on how this is calculated, please see the box below.

President’s 87.3% figure is share of recurrent not ‘entire budget’

The budget office collects the spending data from the counties’ reports and a centralised database.    

The office reported that it approved withdrawals of KSh324.12 billion by the counties for the financial year. Of this, KSh251.96 billion was for recurrent spending and KSh72.16 billion for development.

Of this available KSh324.12 billion, the counties actually spent KSh303.83 billion. Some KSh236.94 billion was recurrent spending and KSh66.89 billion went to development.

Kenya county spending in 2017/18
Counties’ budgetFunds available to countiesFunds spent by counties
TotalKSh410.5 billionKSh324.12 billionKSh303.83 billion
Recurrent spendingKSh271.32 billionKSh251.96 billionKSh236.94 billion
Development spendingKSh139.18 billionKSh72.16 billionKSh66.89 billion


This means that out of the counties’ KSh271.32 billion budget for recurrent expenditure, KSh236.94 billion (or 87%) was spent. This was the figure given by the president.

But the KSh236.84 billion works out to 57.8% of the entire KSh410.5 billion budget as said by the president. His number is thus incorrect.

County governments spent KSh66.89 billion on development projects. As a portion of the “entire budgets” this works out to 16.3%, not the 12.7% Kenyatta claimed. And it makes up 48.1% of the total development budget.

Conclusion: Counties spent 57.8% of total budget on recurrent expenditure and 16.3% on development

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said county governments spent 87.3% of their budget on regular expenses such as salaries and only 12.7% on development projects in the 2017/18 financial year. He was arguing against nurses’ demands for higher wages.

The 87.3% figure is accurate when only the counties recurrent budget is considered. But Kenyatta said this number represented the recurrent share of the counties “entire budgets”. This is inaccurate - as a share of their total (or entire) budgets it is actually 57.8%.

Further, 16.3% of the entire budget was spent on development projects - not 12.7% as he said.  


Further reading:

Republish our content for free

We believe that everyone needs the facts.

You can republish the text of this article free of charge, both online and in print. However, we ask that you pay attention to these simple guidelines. In a nutshell:

1. Do not include images, as in most cases we do not own the copyright.

2. Please do not edit the article.

3. Make sure you credit "Africa Check" in the byline and don't forget to mention that the article was originally published on

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters

Want to keep reading our fact-checks?

We will never charge you for verified, reliable information. Help us keep it that way by supporting our work.

Become a newsletter subscriber

Support independent fact-checking in Africa.