Experiences of Child Sensitive Planning and Budgeting in Kenya
Kenya like other African countries is a signatory to international and regional conventions put in place to protect the rights and welfare of children. Key among these conventions include the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, African Charter on the Right and the Welfare of the Child, and the commitment to attain the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. At national level, the government is committed to safeguarding the rights of children through legislations such as the Children’s Act of 2001, the Bill of rights as enshrined in the 2010 Constitution and by articulating children issues in Kenya Vision 2030. These commitments obligate the government to adopt child sensitive planning and budgeting to ensure that adequate resources are allocated towards policies and programmes that aim at protecting and safeguarding the rights and welfare of children.
In the Kenyan context, a child is any person under the age of eighteen years. United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) defines child sensitive planning and budgeting as one that “reflects the realization of children’s rights, specifically national budgets that adequately address children’s issues, such as poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy or child protection.” Child sensitive budgeting is therefore not a distinct budgeting process specifically for children but rather it entails national and county governments prioritizing resource allocations towards programmes that benefit children.
Child friendly budgets can help various duty bearers such as governments, development partners and civil society to provide an account of how their policies, programmes and budgets address children’s socio-economic rights. Consequently, such budgets can contribute to poverty reduction and enhance children’s survival, development and protection. Child sensitive planning and budgeting also provide a framework to examine the resource implications of policy commitments for children in key socio-economic sectors and to refocus and reallocate resources to achieve optimal results for the most deprived children who currently live in 33.7% of households with children in the country.
In Kenya, child sensitive planning and budgeting has been happening somewhat at national and county level. Some of the key ministries at national level with child-specific programmes include: Ministry of Education; Ministry of Health; Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Services; and Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government. At the county government level, the key sectors that have child-specific programmes include health, education, water and sanitation, and social protection.
Under the State Department of Basic Education, child-specific programmes include free primary education, special needs education, free day secondary education, digital literacy programme, primary and secondary teachers training and in-service, secondary school bursaries, and school health, nutrition and meals. Of these, free day secondary education followed by free primary education and school health, nutrition and meals receive the largest share of State Department of Basic Education budget. Overall, allocation to the State Department for Basic Education has been increasing over the years. For instance, budgetary allocation to the department increased from Ksh 56,246 million in 2013/14 to Ksh 63,980 million in 2014/15 and further to Ksh 67,106 in 2015/16. This indicates government’s commitment to ensure realization of children’s right to free and compulsory basic education as stipulated in the constitution.
At the county level, one of the major child-specific programmes that was devolved is pre-primary education (Early Childhood Development Education – ECDE). During the first phase of devolution (2013-2017), counties budgetary allocation to ECDE was approximately 80% of their education budgets. Much of the funds were spent on construction of ECDE infrastructure and hiring of ECDE teachers. In addition to provision of pre-primary education, counties provide bursaries to disadvantaged children especially at secondary school level. However, some counties lack regulations establishing the bursary funds as stipulated in Section 116 of the Public Finance Management (PFM) Act of 2012 which affects the operationalization of the funds.
As for the Ministry of Health, national budgetary allocation to the health sector has significantly reduced since 2013 due to devolution of health services. However, the Ministry still budgets for some programmes such as reproductive health (family planning, maternal and child health), nutrition, and malaria control programme. A large proportion of the Ministry’s budget goes to reproductive health services. In 2014/15 and 2015/16, the reproductive health budget accounted for 8% and 13% of the Ministry’s budget, respectively, with the lion’s share going to family planning and maternal and child health programmes. This can be attributed to the need to control population growth and to minimize maternal mortality, which is still a major challenge in the country. Another programme under the Ministry of Health that has been receiving much funding is the malaria control programme, since malaria is one of the major causes of child mortality not only in the country but also in Sub-Saharan Africa.
At the county level, county governments are responsible for county health facilities and pharmacies, ambulance services and promotion of primary healthcare. Key primary healthcare services that target children include immunization and family planning programmes. The provision of these services has, however, been affected from time to time due to industrial actions by county health workers.
The Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Services also plays a critical role in the advancement of the realization of children’s rights. Some of the Ministry’s programmes that target children include: cash transfers to orphans and vulnerable children (CT-OVC), cash transfers to persons with severe disability, children remand homes, children services and rehabilitation schools, among others. Of these programmes, the CT-OVC whose role is to scale up financial support to households and vulnerable children across the country has been receiving the highest budgetary allocations as a share of the Ministry’s budget for child-specific programmes. In 2013/14, the Ministry’s planned target was 200,000 households with orphans and vulnerable children, which it surpassed by 55,000 households, according to the Government of Kenya 2016 Social Protection, Culture and Recreation Sector Report. In the following financial year 2014/15, the achieved target was 255,470 households which further increased to 353,000 households in 2015/16. The Ministry used its 2015/16 achievement as the baseline target for 2016/17 and increased it to 503,000 households in 2017/18.
Another key ministry that has children programmes is the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government. The Ministry’s child-specific programmes include: probation services, after care services, and borstal institutions. Of these three key programmes, probation services receive the largest share of the Ministry’s children budget followed by borstal institutions while aftercare services receive the least amount of the Ministry’s children budget. This calls for the need to balance the allocations because a neglect of aftercare services as shown by least budgetary allocations may hinder effective reintegration and resettlement into the community by children who have completed their sentence.
Whereas both national and county governments have some form of child-sensitive planning and budgeting as evidenced by budgetary allocations to some child-specific programmes in different ministries, challenges still abound. One of the challenges is limited disaggregated data on budgetary allocations to children programmes, which may hinder effective planning and budgeting for children. In most county budgets and even the national budget, allocations to children programmes are usually not disaggregated for all ministries, making it difficult to monitor and evaluate programmes targeting children by their socio-economic background and gender. This can partly be attributed to limited capacity on child sensitive planning and budgeting at national and county level. Child sensitive planning and budgeting requires that children programmes are clearly outlined in the budgets, and resources allocated to each programme. In so doing, planners, civil society and other stakeholders can effectively monitor and evaluate children programmes to ensure that children rights are realized.
Another challenge is poor coordination between national and county governments which has mostly affected the management of health human resources and resulted into duplication of some programmes at county level. For instance, bursary funds are not only provided by county governments but also constituencies through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and other non-governmental organizations and private sector institutions.
Inadequate financial resources are also a hindrance to child sensitive planning and budgeting in the country. Whereas children are about half of the country’s population, budgetary allocation towards programmes that benefit them is approximately 25% of the national budget, hence the need to allocate more financial resources if government commitments on children rights and welfare are to be realized.
One of the ways through which Kenya can address some of the challenges is to borrow and learn from experiences of other countries around the world who have implemented child sensitive planning and budgeting, such as South Africa, Brazil and Bangladesh. The latter introduced child focused reporting on the budget in 2015/16 to facilitate tracking of the country’s investment in children. This was followed up in 2016/17 by a ‘Child Budget’ which reports on children’s share in the allocations for each of its ministries. In South Africa, child’s budget initiative efforts have been spearheaded by the Institute for Democracy. The organization has produced several publications which have been used to provide insight into the main requirements for child rights budgeting. In Brazil, children elect their peers to form a children’s budget participation council whose role is to ensure that the municipal councils address children’s needs and priorities.
Going forward, both national and county governments can consider building capacity in child sensitive budgeting and planning. Capacity building can be done in collaboration with non-governmental organizations such as UNICEF and Save the Children which run programmes on child sensitive planning and budgeting across the globe. Additionally, there is need to adopt a reporting system that disaggregates budgetary allocations and expenditure on children-specific programmes. Moreover, such programmes should be monitored closely and evaluated to provide reliable data and information for planning. There is also need for coordination between national and county governments to prevent any hiccups in provision of services and to avoid duplication of programmes. Finally, at both county and national governments, prioritization of children issues in all sectors is necessary.
Author: By Esther Owino
Photo: Courtesy of UNICEF