Emotions run high as senators debate revenue sharing plan

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020 00:00 |
Senate speaker Kenneth Lusaka walks into the chambers yesterday. Photo/PD/SAMUEL KARIUKI

Emotions were running high last night as senators debated the controversial revenue sharing formula amid a strong push by Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata to pass the motion without further delay.

However, lawmakers from marginalised and sparsely populated counties put up a spirited fight against the proposed formula, saying it would result in dramatic revenue cuts to their counties and defeat the spirit of devolution.

Efforts by Senate Minority Leader James Orengo and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula to have the contentious debate adjourned to allow more consensus building on the matter were shut down, with their colleagues insisting that a decision had to be made.

Legislators from the Coast region, Northern Kenya, Ukambani, Turkana, Tharaka Nithi, Narok and Samburu backed by Nairobi had ganged up to reject the formula proposed by the House Committee on Finance and Budget, which, they said, would lead to a reduction of their shareable revenue if passed.

“I move that this debate now be adjourned, this matter, reporting positively, at least there is some consensus, that consensus is the way.

I have understood it, no senator wants to see any county losing even a shilling,” Orengo pleaded with Speaker Ken Lusaka, insisting there was room for more  consultations on the issue.

Same mistake

The Siaya senator noted that debate on resources is normally divisive and pleaded with the House that the trajectory the discussion was taking could have ramifications going into generations.

 “The way this vote has been portrayed, we will make the same mistake we made in the 1960s.

We are making the same mistake when Session Paper number 10 was discussed in the National Assembly; it was neither African nor socialist, because it was taking development to already developed regions, that we don’t want to repeat,” he insisted.

However, Kang’ata (Murang’a) and his minority counterpart Mutula Kilonzo Junior (Makueni) backed by Senators Fatuma Dullo (Isiolo), Kithure Kindiki (Tharaka Nithi) Stewart Madzayo (Kilifi) and Vihiga’s George Khaniri voted against Orengo’s adjournment motion, paving the way for the debate to proceed on amendments proposed by Kang’ata.

“I oppose this motion, we have discussed this issue, this is the sixth sitting, the options we have before us, are the best, we have discussed and caucused, it must be the end. It is time we decided, Kenyans are watching,” Kang’ata pleaded.

“I stand to oppose this adjournment. We know that even the chair of Finance (committee) was not ready to move, I am aware.

Postponing this to make sure we are lobbied and lobbied, and phone calls throughout the night, we are not sleeping,” Mutula protested.

“I want to see senators voting against Makueni, I want to see people voting, saying the chair of BBI who seats here should lose money; today is the day, we want to see the people who are ready to hug Makueni. So do it now, don’t postpone our misery, hung us now,” the senator insisted.

“That no senator can say there is a county of shrubs, livestock and bushes, no senator will go to a wedding to threaten us, threaten us now.”

Prof Kindiki, while opposing the motion, observed that the House was faced with the fate of a young man in Chinua Achebe’s book, Arrow of God, who was sent to deliver a message to another village.

“This House must be able to carry water and fire in one mouth. We are faced with a choice no amount of proclamation will help. Let’s make a decision and live with it,” he held.

Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika shared his sentiments  who said the matter had to be dispensed with as it had been with the House for over a year shared his sentiments.

The new formula has a sharp departure from the first and second sharing formula where population, basic equal share, poverty, land area, development, personnel emolument and fiscal responsibility were the key parameters.

However, opinion is sharply divided among politicians, with those from counties with high population throwing their weight behind it.

While representatives from counties with large landmass, but sparse population have vehemently opposed the formula, complaining that if adopted by the Senate, their region will lose up to Sh17 billion cumulatively.

By the time of going to the press, the senators were voting on Muranga Senator Irungu Kang‘ata amendments which seeks to postpone operationalization of the third basis for allocating among the counties the share of national revenue for financial years 2020/2021 to 2024/2025.

According to Kang’ata, the commencement date of the formula  will be in the Financial Year 2022/2023.

Meanwhile, the criteria applied to allocate, among the counties, the share of national revenue for the financial year 2019/2020 shall continue to apply until the commencement of the criteria.

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