Funding crisis could cripple success of devolution

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020 00:00 |
Treasury Cabinet secretary Ukur Yatani. Photo/PD/FILE

Kenyans today acknowledge that the national and county governments are entrenched in our governance system and that devolution is the pillar of our Constitution.

It took a protracted political and legal struggle of historical proportions before this constitutional dispensation reached maturity. 

Some of our current legislators may not be alive to the fact that the stalemate over the Commission on Revenue Allocation’s proposed revenue sharing formula has roots in Kenya’s long quest for justice, power and equity for our diverse communities.

The search for fair distribution of national resources and a devolved structure of government dates back to colonial times, the struggle for liberation and independence when Kanu prevailed over Kadu’s majimbo (federal) ideology, promising a centralised government of national unity.

However, this promise soon fizzled out and was replaced by an authoritarian rule and subsequently a de jure one-party state that centralised power and left many communities marginalised. 

Disaffection mounted against this form of government because despite contributing to significant growth and socio-economic development, it also thrived on deceit and manipulation. 

The ensuing second liberation struggle restored multi-party democracy but did not resolve the thorny issues that haunt the nation to date—political and economic inequities, historical injustices, an overbearing, exclusive elite, and an imposing executive.

Decentralisation of power was designed to remedy this situation. The coalition government of national unity that emerged from the 2007/08 post-election violence gave birth to the 2010 Constitution, devolution’s custodian.

Devolution is a holistic reaffirmation of the sovereign power in the people derived from God, as stated in the preamble of the Constitution to foster a more equal and inclusive society.

Yesterday’s crisis meeting on the revenue sharing formula impasse convened by National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani with the Senate leadership, the Council of Governors, the Controller of Budget and the Attorney-General acknowledged this overarching principle of our Constitution.

It is a matter of grave national importance as the country grapples with a spike in the Covid-19 caseload.

Treasury is holding on close to Sh40 billion due to counties because the amended County Allocation Revenue Act has not been enacted.

Other than compromising the counties’ capacity to fight the virus, the withheld funds have led to non-payment of salaries to health workers and undermined development activities.

Mandera Governor Ali Ibrahim Roba last year described the success of devolution in previously marginalised regions.

The impact on peoples’ lives has seen changes never thought possible in roads, water, agriculture and livestock development, education and health services.

His county has witnessed in six years more than what it achieved in 50 years since independence.

By 2019, Mandera county had received Sh52.9 billion equitable share of revenue from Treasury. 

Slashing Sh1.326 billion from its budget as proposed in the amended Act would be disastrous for the people of Mandera as it would for the people of the other affected counties.

While the CRA’s proposed revenue sharing formula would be beneficial once the county allocations are increased from the current percentage as proposed in the Building Bridges Initiative, it is not wise to reduce funds from current budgets. 

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, goes the idiom. The best way to resolve the revenue allocation stalemate and support devolution is to let the status quo remain. 

Dear Senators, legislate the Act to spare all the 47 counties from slashed allocations. [email protected]

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