Last-ditch efforts to break revenue sharing standoff

Monday, July 20th, 2020 00:00 |
Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi.

Eric Wainaina @EWainaina

Senators from populous counties were yesterday locked in a meeting as part of efforts to lobby support for the controversial revenue sharing formula ahead of tomorrow’s debate in the Senate, even as it emerged seven members had maintained a hard-line stance against it.

Yesterday People Daily established that some lawmakers mainly from counties set to gain if the proposed formula is passed met at the residence of Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata in Nairobi in an attempt to broker a deal in the deadlock that has delayed disbursement of cash to counties and which threatens to plunge the country into a constitutional crisis.

The seven senators standing in the way of the new formula are Minority Leader James Orengo, Sam Ongeri (Kisii), Ochillo Ayacko (Migori), Johnson Sakaja (Nairobi), Mutinda Kabaka (Machakos), Fred Outa (Kisumu) and Elgeyo Marakwet’s Kipchumba Murkomen.

Interestingly, the seven represent are among those that are set to gain if the formula whose report was prepared by the Budget and Finance Committee is approved.

Twenty-nine counties are set to gain, which could have handed proponents a win in a possible vote, but with the seven dissenting, support for the formula has reduced to 22.

The number of senators opposed to the formula now stands at 25, mainly from counties that stand to lose revenue.

Counties protest

“We have been engaging each other to break the impasse. We have not brokered a truce yet but I am confident that from our talks, we shall be able to build consensus in favour of the formula,” said Senator Kang’ata, who has been tasked to whip members in support of the formula.

The new method places particular emphasis on population, instead of land mass, poverty and levels of development as the basis to calculate distribution of funds to counties.

The Senate is supposed to have already approved the formula to guide the distribution of Sh316 billion to the 47 counties but the move hit a stalemate after senators from vast but less populated regions protested, saying their areas will lose a combined Sh17 billion.

Yesterday, sources indicated that senators intend to come up with a solution that will appease their colleagues whose regions stand to lose so that the formula is passed without acrimony.

Kang’ata said some of the options being evaluated is an amendment proposed by Nyandarua Senator Mwangi Githiomi to have 70 per cent of the revenue shared equally and the remaining 30 per cent be distributed based on specific needs of counties.

Selfish decisions

The other options include a suggestion by Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina which seeks to ensure no county loses more than Sh79 million or gains more than Sh232 million.

The third option is to have the new formula passed as it is but its implementation suspended until the next financial year since counties which are set to lose had prepared 2020-21 budgets based on the old formula.

Outa yesterday said he was opposing the formula in solidarity with colleagues whose counties would lose big.

“It is not a matter of winning or losing. The role of the Senate is to ensure equal distribution of wealth.

We can’t afford to make selfish decisions because our counties gained. We are pushing for a situation that will not allow any county to lose.

Any withdrawal of revenue will affect development projects because counties based their budgets on the old formula,” he told People Daily in a telephone interview.

But Kiambu’s Kimani Wamatangi, who has been pushing for the one-man-one-vote-one-shilling campaign, said the formula should be passed, noting that less populated counties would still be favoured since their per capita allocation would remain high compared to populous ones.

He said counties with low population have been getting the highest allocation per person and cited Lamu with a population of 143,000 which receives 21,000 per person while Nairobi with a huge population has been getting about Sh3,000 per person.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is reported to have been angered by the controversy around the formula, directed Majority Leader Samuel Poghisio to call a special sitting last Monday to dispense with the matter but no deal was reached.

Uhuru, according to sources, wants the formula passed but implementation shelved to next year when he promised to increase the county cash by Sh17 billion to ensure the less populated counties do not lose.

He is said to have been unhappy with senators who hold House leadership positions but were opposing the formula, notably deputy Majority Leader Fatuma Dullo, deputy Whip Farhiya Ali Haji, Ongeri (Public Accounts Committee) and Sakaja (Labour).

Yesterday, Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia, who is also the chairman of Central Kenya Economic Bloc (Cekeb), which brings together nine counties in Mt Kenya region, asked senators to pass the formula as proposed, saying it will ensure equity.

Uniformity of counties

He said money should be allocated based on population and not land mass, arguing that it is the people who require development and services.

He, however, said: “Money should be allocated according to population and then regions that are behind in terms of development be given an Equalisation Fund for uniformity in all counties.

There should be no competition on who is shortchanging who because the losers here have been regions which actually contribute much revenue to the nation’s coffers. That is a very bad doctrine.” 

Council of Governor chair Wycliffe Oparanya said should the new formula be adopted, Treasury should use the Sh20 billion Equalisation Fund to cushion losing counties.

“It will be painful for the counties which have prepared budgets. It will be difficult for them to adjust budgets without affecting operations.”

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