Counties on edge over revenue sharing impasse

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020 00:00 |
Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka

Hillary Mageka @hillarymageka

Counties were yesterday plunged into a full-blown cash crisis after President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga failed to persuade senators to pass the disputed revenue sharing formula.

The method is supposed to guide how county governments will share the Sh316.5 billion allocated in the Division of Revenue Bill as shareable revenue.

Despite weeks of negotiations, senators for the fourth time, failed to debate and pass the contentious formula, further delaying release of money to counties.

The stand-off has stalled the passage of the County Allocation of Revenue Bill, a piece of legislation that distributes revenue raised by the national government among the national and county governments.

Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka was yesterday forced to adjourn a special meeting at which the formula was set to debated after weeks of lobbying that drew President Kenyatta’s intervention.

Attempts had been made to seek Raila’s intervention in the matter but yesterday’s turn of events was an indication that the two leaders were unsuccessful in persuading senators whose counties were set to lose revenue if the formula was passed to throw their support behind it.

Majority Leader Samuel Poghisio sought an adjournment to enable the Senate Finance and Budget Committee, which has been handling the issue to build consensus.

“I did ask for this meeting as a special sitting this morning.  However, as you can see the mover is not even here. 

My request is that we consider adjourning this sitting,” Poghisio said.

“I request that as Leader of Majority that this meeting be held at another time so that we make conclusions.

I move,” said Poghisio, sparking protests from a section of senators. Lusaka allowed Poghisio’s request but warned that a solution to the impasse was long overdue.

“Therefore, I want to ask the chair of the Committee on Finance and Budget to hasten this process because it is taking exceedingly long and he must provide leadership,” said the Speaker.

“I am directing that the House adjourns until Tuesday July 28,” the Speaker said.

Walked out

As he walked out after adjourning the session, some senators protested, chanting: “Shame! Shame! Shame!”

The chanting was a signal of the fireworks that would have ensued on the floor had the motion been tabled for debate.

“We should impeach Speaker Lusaka for adjourning the Senate unlawfully! Bure,” Minority Whip Mutula Kilonzo Jnr wrote on Twitter shortly after the adjournment.

 Mutula yesterday said senators had told the President and Raila that they will reject the “discriminative” formula.

“We have told them that we cannot pass a formula which denies 18 counties their money. They are aware.

Even if they were pushing the formula by the committee, we have refused it,” he held

Village meeting

“We can’t adjourn the Senate like a village meeting,” Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina said, concurring with Mutula.

The lawmakers said some senators were invoking the name of the President in an attempt to force support for the controversial formula. 

“The problem in Senate is not Speaker Lusaka but busybodies who drop names of the President and Raila Odinga whenever they want to achieve their selfish ends.

We stand firm for devolution and a united Kenya,” Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang’ said in a thinly veiled attack at Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata, who has been lobbying senators to pass the formula.

The major contention is that the formula, which places special emphasis on county population, will see 18 devolved units with large land mass but low populations lose up to Sh17 billion from their allocations in the last financial year.

The formula, which has been the subject of heated exchanges for the past three weeks, has created a wedge among senators, with those from counties with high populations backing it while representatives from counties with large landmass, but sparse populations crying foul.

“The proposed formula which has the support of the President is a blessing to many counties including Nandi County which will become one of the beneficiaries,” Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said after the adjournment.

“The formula has been deferred for the last one year contrary to articles 203, 206, and 2017 of the Constitution,” he added. 

Bid to control huge budgets, fear of backlash and 2022 succession politics are some of the unseen factors behind the protracted fight on the formula as more senators set their eyes on the governor’s position in the next polls.

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