Senators eat humble pie, accept Sh316 billion allocated to counties
Senators have thrown in the towel in their dispute with the National Assembly and agreed a proposed allocation of Sh316 billion to counties following months of a protracted stalemate over the Division of Revenue Bill.
The two houses of Parliament have engaged in tussle over the exact amount to be disbursed to the county governments.
Whereas the National Assembly has proposed that counties get Sh316 billion, the Senate wants them allocated Sh335 billion as proposed by the Commission for Revenue Allocation (CRA).
But addressing a press conference at Parliament building on Thursday after holding three-hour meeting, the Senators led by their Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen and his minority counterpart James Orengo beat a hasty retreat in its dispute with MPs and approved the funds as contained in the republished Division of Revenue Bill currently before a mediation committee of the two Houses.
The move, though painful, they said was to save counties from a pro-longed financial crisis and avert shutdown.
“Following a meeting held today, we have made the painful decision to advice our negotiators to agree on the 316.5 billion,” Murkomen said in a joint statement.
He continued, “It’s not enough, but it is progress and the Senate will live to fight another day. The Senate will not allow the entire system of devolved government that is the basic pillar of our Constitution to be brought down by schemes,”
“We take solace in the fact that sometimes to win the war, one must be prepared to yield some battles,” he added, flanked by over 25 senators.
Murkomen, who is also the Elgeyo Marakwet Senator said they will continue pursuing their court case currently before the Supreme Court.
“We will continue fighting in court. That one house cannot pass an Appropriation Bill without passing the Division of Revenue Bill.”
The senators accused the National Assembly of muzzling and plotting to kill the devolved governance system.
“The National Assembly is not concerned that counties may grind to a halt and the citizenry misses out on basic services. We will not be part of that,” Murkomen held.
Last week, the Council of Governors (COG) had threatened to shut down counties if the Division of Revenue bill deadlock will not be resolved in the next two weeks. The council had indicated that the county governments were struggling to pay salaries of their personnel.
“Beyond this date (September 16, 2019), if the matter is not resolved the county governments will have no option but to shut down,” the Council of Governors Chairman Governor Wycliffe Oparanya said.
On August 20, 2019, President Uhuru Kenyatta called on both Houses to end the stalemate to allow the release of funds to counties. While noting that the government does not have unlimited resources, President Kenyatta maintained that what the National Government has been allocating to counties was actually much higher than the threshold set by the Constitution.
“The Constitution says we give a minimum of 15 per cent to counties. Within one year I took it to over 30 per cent,” said the President.
He asked: “Why can you not pass the Bill so that people can get services. Reach an agreement so that we can release funds to counties,” the head of state challenged.