Senate orders Treasury to fund counties, avert strike

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019 00:00 |
Senate committee on Finance and Budget chair Mohamed Mohamud wants counties allowed to access funds through an administrative process. Photo/FILE

Senate has moved to forestall a looming strike by county government workers, triggered by delay in enactment of the Division of Revenue Act (DORA).

By a resolution of the House last Thursday, the lawmakers asked the National Treasury to give counties funding of up to 50 per cent of last year’s Sh314 billion allocation through an administrative process to enable them to pay workers salaries and provide services to residents in the interim period.

More than a month into the 2019/20 financial year, counties have been facing serious cash crisis that has almost grounded key services, with some unable to pay salaries.

Last week, county employees, through trade unions, threatened to down tools if they did not get July salaries by yesterday.

Access funds

Led by Senate Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki and Mandera Senator Mohamed Mohamud, the legislators said whereas the National government is enjoying benefits of the Appropriation Act, whose legality is being contested, the same is not happening in the counties hence they are in a financial crisis.

“This House should resolve that the National Treasury is called upon to provide the required funding, similar to what is provided for in the National government in terms of votes so that they can run their operations,” Mohamud, who is the Committee on Finance and Budget chairman said.

He said before the enactment of DORA, County Allocation of Revenue Act and the Appropriation Act, counties should be supported and allowed to access some funds through an administrative process.

“This is not the first time this will happen; precedence was set in the 2014/15 financial year when there was a delay in the enactment of the Division of Revenue Act,” he held.

Resolve stalemate

“We will not be breaking any law, my committee is prepared to meet the National Treasury Cabinet Secretary so that we can move forward,” Mohamud added.

At the same time, the Finance committee has summoned acting National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani and his Devolution counterpart Eugene Wamalwa this morning to discuss measures to resolve the funding stalemate in counties due to delayed enactment of DORA.

The summon was agreed upon on Thursday after a deliberation on a statement titled “crisis in counties due to delayed enactment of Dora” that was tabled by Mohamud.

Others who are expected before the team are the Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo, Council of Governors chair Wycliffe Oparanya and the Attorney General Kihara Kariuki.

“I direct the committee after the consultations on Tuesday, to submit a report to the Speaker of the Senate within seven days,” said Kindiki. 

While giving their views on Mahamud’s statement under Standing Order 51(1) (a), Senators Moses Wetang’ula (Bungoma), Ledama ole Kina (Narok), Ochillo Ayacko (Migori) and Margaret Kamar (Uashi Gishu) said since last year’s allocation of Sh314 billion is a known figure and the two Houses of Parliament do not have to discuss or contest the amount, the Finance committee should find a safe passage to negotiate a situation where county governments will be funded.

Pay workers

Meanwhile, operations in at least 24 counties will be in paralysis as workers down their tools to protest unpaid wages.

Kenya County Government Workers Union secretary general Roba Duba has said following their strike notice last week, only 23 county governments have paid their workers while four have expressed willingness to clear their dues by today.

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