Senate Special Sitting set to unlock impasse on revenue

Friday, July 10th, 2020 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta Photo/FILE

Senate is on Monday expected to hold a Special Sitting to pass the controversial new revenue sharing formula, which has split members and delayed disbursement of money to counties.

The move follows the intervention of President Uhuru Kenyatta who yesterday expressed displeasure with a section of senators opposed to the proposed formula despite his assurances that no county will lose money.

According to Uhuru, sources said, the delay that could push the country into a constitutional crisis was unnecessary, as it had been agreed the formula be passed but its implementation be suspended to allow further discussions.

The President, who yesterday met the House leadership at his Harambee House office during signing of six bills, directed Majority Leader Samuel Poghisio to organise a Special Sitting on Monday to dispense with the matter.

Uhuru unhappy

Uhuru is reportedly unhappy with senators who hold House leadership posts but are opposed to the formula, notably Deputy Majority Leader Fatuma Dullo, Deputy Whip Farhiya Ali Haji, Kisii’s Sam Ongeri (Public Accounts Committee chair) and Nairobi’s Johnson Sakaja who chairs the Labour committee. 

Other senators with House positions but have opposed the new formula include Makueni’s Mutula Kilonzo Junior (Minority Whip) and Mutinda Kabaka (Machakos), whose Wiper Party entered into a collaboration deal with Jubilee Party to work together in and out of Parliament.

“Despite government agreeing to their demands (to pass but shelve implementation of the new formula), those senators have been shifting goal posts.

In particular, some senators whose counties would not lose money are in the opposing side. This has made Uhuru unhappy with Ongeri, Sakaja, Kabaka, Mutula, Dullo and Farhiya,” a highly placed source told the People Daily.

 “They risk being de-whipped. He (Uhuru) decided today to command Poghisio to call a special sitting on Monday to discuss the formula,” the source added.

Sharing formula

The Division of Revenue Allocation Bill, which unlocks cash for counties, cannot be approved unless the formula is passed.

There have been concerns that if implemented, the formula will snatch Sh17 billion from 18 less populated counties.

Dullo, Ongeri and Mutula have publicly vowed to shoot down the formula while Sakaja and Kabaka have been fighting it on their internal social media platforms.

Yesterday, Poghisio wrote to Speaker Ken Lusaka, who was also present during the signing of the Bills, asking him to convene the sitting to consider the formula “without further delay”.

“I, therefore, write to request you to invoke Standing Order No. 1 as read with Standing Order 30 (1) to approve a Special Sitting to be held on Monday July 13, 2020, at 2.30pm to receive and consider the report of the Standing Committee of Finance and Budget on the third basis for allocating among the counties the share of national revenue,” Poghisio wrote.

 The Senate is supposed to have already approved the formula to guide the distribution of Sh316 billion to counties but the move has hit a stalemate after senators from vast but less populated regions protested.

While 29 senators argue that the formula whose report has been prepared by Kirinyaga Senator Charles Kibiru-led Finance committee will ensure equity, those from less populated areas say it will erode the gains of devolution in the regions considered marginalised.

Contacted yesterday, Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata (Murang’a) declined to discuss the meeting with Uhuru, but said the President had tried to mediate on the matter to ensure no county loses, but some lawmakers had taken hardline positions.

Government concessions

“The government has made several concessions to those aggrieved to this formula. Initially, the formula would have caused some counties to lose money if implemented this financial year.

The government understands this would have caused great hardships. Again, the government does not want any senator deemed to have superintendent loss of revenue in their county,” Kang’ata said.

Yesterday, senators whose counties were initially thought to be on the losing end, mainly from North Eastern, Ukambani, Coast region and the Maa community, were lobbying to defeat the formula even as their counterparts vowed to pass it “and deal with the political consequences later”.

Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malalas said he would vote in favour of the new formula, saying it takes care of the interests of his populous region, which he argued has been previously disadvantaged.

“The one-man-one-vote-one-shilling reasoning should be the formula to allocate resources because you cannot use land as a determinant for resource allocation since money is used by people not land,” said Malala, whose county has 1.867 million people.

The new formula places particular emphasis on population, instead of land mass, poverty and levels of development.

However, he said it would be unfair if some counties would lose because they have done their budgets based on the previous formula.

Malala asked the government to consider increasing the equitable share funding to deal with the crisis.

Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi, whose county has 2.4 million people, said the previous formula was unfair to counties with huge populations noting that after budgeting money for services, county governments were left with little for development.

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