Finally, funds for counties after senators endorse bill

Friday, September 6th, 2019 08:00 |
Leader of Majority in the Senate Kipchumba Murkomen with his colleagues after addressing the media on the Division of Revenue Bill, yesterday. Photo/PD/SAMUEL KARIUKI


Cash-starved counties will start receiving their equitable share of revenue in the next 21 days after the Senate threw in the towel in a dispute with the National Assembly over the Division of Revenue Bill.

The senators beat a hasty retreat yesterday in its dispute with MPs and agreed on the proposed allocation of Sh316 billion to counties, ending a three-month standoff.

The two houses of Parliament have been quarrelling over the equitable shareable revenue between the National government and the 47 devolved units, a situation that pushed the counties into a financial ditch.

Whereas the National Assembly had proposed that counties get Sh316 billion, the Senate wanted them allocated Sh335 billion as proposed by the Commission for Revenue Allocation (CRA). 

The Senate committee on Finance and Budget chairman Mohammed Mahamud, said though the move was not agreeable to everyone it was a “win” for the National Assembly and the National Treasury as it will end the three-month deadlock.

“Obviously, all of us did not agree on the amount but as stated earlier, we will meet  next week as members of the mediation committee, and adopt the proposals,” Mahamud told People Daily in a phone interview yesterday.

“After that, the bill will be republished with Sh316 billion and presented to both houses of Parliament for adoption.

After it is passed by members, it will be taken to the President for assent; essentially it’s going to take 21 days for counties to receive funding from the National Treasury,” he explained.

Throw in the towel

Impeccable sources said parliamentary leaders were  under “firm instructions” to prevail on members to agree to the Sh316.5 billion allocated by the National Treasury. 

The sources said President Uhuru Kenyatta had summoned the Senate leadership comprising Speaker Kenneth Lusaka, Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen, Minority Leader James Orengo,  Chief Whip Susan Kihika and her deputy Irungu Kang’ata, and given them a hair dryer over the stalemate.

An official familiar with the meeting said the President did not mince words, as he told them that threats by governors to shut down operations in counties. would paint the government in bad light.

“Immediately Lusaka arrived from an overseas trip, the entire House leadership was summoned by Uhuru who had just returned from Japan,” the official said.

“The instructions were clear to them to  agree on  the amount of money that had been offered.  The President told them there was no going back on the Sh316 billion figure.” 

The Senate Mashinani programme, slated for next week in  Kitui, played a role in senators agreeing with their colleagues in the National Assembly, for fear of a public backlash. The programme entails one-on-one meetings between senators and the public.

Painful and difficult

In throwing in  the towel, the senators yielded to pressure from the national government to agree on the proposed Sh316 billion as contained in the republished Division of Revenue Bill, 2019, currently before a mediation committee of the two Houses.

Murkomen and Orengo announced that the move, though “painful”, will help counties heal from a worsening financial crisis and avert a shutdown.

“The country is faced with the real prospect of shutting down of services at the counties.

This would have a disastrous effect on critical sectors such as agriculture and health,” Murkomen said after a three-hour stormy meeting characterised by name-calling and walkouts.

“Following a meeting held today, we have made the painful decision to advise our negotiators to agree on the Sh316.5 billion.”

The senator said although the money was not adequate theirs is a work in progress and the Senate will live to fight another day. 

“The Senate will not allow the entire system of devolved government that is the basic pillar of our Constitution to be brought down by evil schemes,” he added.

Orengo praised the Senate decision to accept the proposal, “though painful and difficult”. 

Last week, the Council of Governors (COG) threatened to shut down counties if the Division of Revenue deadlock was not resolved in two weeks.

More on National