National Assembly steps in to address counties cash crunch

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020 00:00 |
National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi. Photo/PD/SAMUEL KARIUKI

Mercy Mwai and Hilary Mageka

The National Assembly has now stepped in to address the cash crunch in counties and asked the Senate, to fast-track the passage of the Public Finance Management (Amendment) Bill 2019, to allow counties to access 50 per cent of their equitable share.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi directed Majority Leader Amos Kimunya, and his minority counterpart John Mbadi to engage Senate Majority Leader Samuel Poghisio to treat the Bill as a priority.

He said passing the Bill will allow withdrawals from the consolidated fund, in the event the Senate fails to pass the revenue sharing formula.

Muturi told the House that passing the Bill will be a convenient avenue, of averting a financial crisis in the counties within a shorter time frame.

The Bill sponsored by Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa seeking to allow the 47 counties  to access at least 50 per cent of their equitable share from the national government in the event the Division of Revenue Bill has not been enacted on time.

The Bill was passed at the National Assembly on September 18, 2019, and referred to the Senate for concurrence but has not been considered to date.

“The leader of the majority party and the leader of the minority party are hereby requested to urgently engage the Senate majority leader, with a view of fast-tracking the passage of the Public Finance Management (Amendment) Bill.

This will ensure that counties continue to function whether or not there is a stalemate or delays in the passage of the two annual revenue bills,” he said.

This came even as Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka yesterday adjourned the debate on the controversial third basis revenue sharing among counties for another seven days.

According to Lusaka, the move will allow for consensus building, after a 12-member committee established by the Senate to develop consensus on the formula failed to strike a compromise.

The team co-chaired by Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula and Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja, presented two reports to the House leadership after its members failed to agree on the best formula.

However, Lusaka has scheduled an informal meeting between senators and the House leadership tomorrow to build more consensus before the report is tabled next Tuesday.

“That a Kamukunji be held on Monday, September 14, to update the entire membership on progress made and the outcome of the consultative engagement of the 12-member committee,” he announced as the House resumed its sittings after a three-week recess.

This is the 10th time the House has adjourned debate even as the financial crisis in county governments continues to bite, following failure by senators to make a decision on the revenue formula.

Financial crisis

“I urge that we re-double our efforts to enable us to consider and conclude all business that is before us including bills, motions, petitions and statements, critical among them being the determination of the third basis for revenue allocation among the county governments,” he said.

The decision by Muturi to intervene comes after he met with Lusaka and they agreed to have a “vote on account’ procedure, that allows the national government to withdraw money in the event an appropriation bill is not passed, to be replicated in the county governments to enable them access part of their cash.

To actualise the passage of the Bill, he assured that the House Business Committee which he chairs, will prioritise the Senate’s amendments, once the senate forwards them to the national Assembly.

The communication by Muturi comes after National Treasury Cabinet Secretary (CS) Ukur Yatani wrote to Parliament seeking approval of the House for the release of the 50 per cent  of equitable share.

In the letter,  the CS noted that the request is based on a legal opinion from the Attorney-General which advised that the proposal to release 50 per cent to counties, may only be done with the express authority of the national assembly and the same applies to a withdrawal from the consolidated fund.

More on News