Senate should implement new counties revenue plan

Monday, July 20th, 2020 00:00 |
Cash. Photo/PD/Courtesy

The Senate is currently grappling with a new formula for division by counties of their share of national revenue.

This formula elapses after every five years, and the Commission for Revenue Allocation (CRA) must develop a new one.

The proposed formula has sought to more equitably reflect the burden of population that each county bears in provision of services as per the latest census.

Counties that disproportionately benefitted from the earlier formula that gave greater weight to geographical spread (empty spaces without people) will now get their equitable share. Some will receive less money than last year. Naturally, they are crying foul.

It is only fair that counties with a larger burden of providing services receive a larger allocation.

How do you rationalise a county like Turkana with 926,976 people receiving Sh10 billion, while Kiambu, with almost three times the population at 2,417,735, receiving less money at Sh9.7 billion?

It is lopsided and unconscionable, its apologists notwithstanding, and penalizes those very counties which generate this revenue.

It is merely a self-serving argument that these so-called advantaged counties are doing well.

Pray, what is the difference between a resident of Nairobi’s and Garissa’s slums? Both governments require enough money to uplift the lot of both residents.

Further, Turkana, and the other marginalized counties have been receiving this lopsided share for almost seven years now.

What have they done with it to raise their levels of development? Given that there’s very little discernable change on the ground, Kenya is clearly throwing good money after bad. The problems are elsewhere.

Affirmative action to correct historical injustices is timebound, but these counties have mistaken this for an entitlement.

Any affirmative action that becomes entrenched is discrimination. In Kenya today, this has morphed into discrimination against some counties.

All counties must be enabled to achieve their potential.

However, it’s imperative that Kenya addresses the development deficit of historically marginalised counties.

The objective cannot be to stall some counties so that others can catch up.

This misguided development model was deployed during late President Daniel arap Moi’s regime to disastrous results.

The answer is the Equalisation Fund, a constitutionally mandated affirmative action facility for 14 historically marginalised counties.

This Fund is allocated 0.5 per cent of annual national government revenues, money that is over and above what they receive as part of their share of money allocated to counties.

In 2018, 14 marginalised counties shared Sh11.98 billion from the Equalisation Fund.

The highest recipients were Turkana at Sh1 billion, Mandera at Sh967 million, Wajir at Sh929.8 million and Narok at Sh809 million.

Over five years, these counties have received over Sh5 billion each! What have they done with this money?

Waste and corruption is a big obstacle to development in these counties. Unless drastic corrective measures are taken, all money being thrown at these marginalized counties will go to waste.

Secondly, the Equalisation Fund has a life of 20 years. In this time, the marginalized counties will have received at least Sh20 billion each over and above their allocated share from the counties allocation. 

This is the timeframe that these county governments should be looking at to address decades of marginalisation.

Be patient and put proper plans in place for the 20 years. It is very selfish to hog the lion’s share of all funds going to counties. All Kenyans need development.

But to ensure that the Equalisation Fund achieves its objectives, the CRA and the Controller of Budget must do more to rein in corruption and waste.

Governments from these marginalised counties are sponsoring students to foreign universities, at a time when fellow Kenyans in so-called advantaged counties are struggling with bursaries for basic education. - Gathu Kaara can be reached at [email protected] 

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