Senators protest threats ahead of revenue debate
The stalemate over the Division of Revenue Bill continued yesterday as senators opposed to the proposed sharing formula accused the Executive of trying to arm-twist them into changing their position.
Several senators, who caused a stir last week when they openly rejected the report of the Finance and Budget Committee - which considered the third basis revenue sharing formula as proposed by the Commission for Revenue Allocation (CRA), yesterday said they had been subjected to threats and intimidation but vowed not to relent.
Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja, who tabled an amendment against the controversial formula which, if passed, will see expansive but less populated regions lose a total of Sh17 billion, said there were attempts to coerce them to shift their position but maintained that no amount of intimidation would make them change their stand.
“There is a lot of pressure being exerted on some senators to change positions and support the Kang’ata amendment but we are standing firm.
We are trying to explain to them that our position is out of principle; in fact we are trying to tell the other side that all of us are agreed on the fact that no county should lose money.
The pressure is from all quarters, from political actors, all over but nothing changes,” Sakaja said.
The senators spoke ahead of two meetings scheduled for today to try and unlock the stalemate that has seen the National Treasury fail to disburse billions of shillings due to the 47 county governments, paralysing operations in some of the devolved units.
One of the meetings to unlock the stalemate has been convened by Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani and will bring together the Treasury, Senate leadership, the Council of Governors (CoG), the Attorney General’s office and the Controller of Budget (CoB).
The second meeting has been called by senators who are supporting the controversial formula to devise ways of whipping their colleagues into shifting position before tomorrow when the bill returns to the House for a decisive vote.
Twenty-five senators, including seven whose counties are expected to gain from the formula, remain opposed to the proposal which has received backing from President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Efforts to whip them in its favour have hit a snag leading to the current stalemate.
Speaking in Tharaka constituency at the weekend, Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki, who is opposed to the formula, said he was ready to face any consequences including being expelled from the Jubilee Party but would not be threatened or blackmailed into supporting a formula that shortchanges some regions.
“I am ready to be expelled from the Jubilee Party if that is the ultimate prize that I have to pay for opposing the proposed formula that is biased,” said Kindiki.
Wajir Senator Abdullahi Ali also weighed in, warning against any form of coercion.
“Why is Jubilee fighting Jubilee? There should be no threats, let’s look for a better way (to build consensus),” he said.
People Daily established that there was intense lobbying over the last three days by both sides, with Senate Chief Whip and Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata and his Minority counterpart James Orengo trying to convince the opposing senators to cross the floor and back the formula.
But the rival group, led by Sakaja, his Makueni counterpart Mutula Kilonzo Jr and Cleophas Malala (Kakamega) rallied their colleagues not to succumb to the lobbying.
Yesterday, Kang’ata declined to speak on what tactics they are applying to win members of the opposing group.
But speaking on a live television interview last week, Kang’ata alluded to some disciplinary action being considered against members who defied the party position which is to have the formula passed but its implementation being deferred.
“I have no doubt that very soon we shall be cracking the whip of the party against those who went against the official government business that was before the House,” the Murang’a Senator warned.
“There are some senators who are in positions of leadership in the party who decided on their own motion to go against the official position of the government. We expect some remedial action to be taken against them.”
Senators Malala, Sam Ongeri (Kisii), Sakaja, Anwar Loititip (Lamu), Philip Mpaayei (Kajiado), Boniface Kabaka (Machakos) and Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet) opposed the committee’s report despite their counties set to gain, angering the party leadership.
Senators holding House positions but have opposed the formula are deputy Majority Leader Fatuma Dullo, deputy whip Farhiya Ali Haji and Ongeri (Public Accounts Committee chair).
Other senators with House positions but have opposed the proposed formula include Makueni’s Mutula Kilonzo Junior (Minority Whip) and Machakos’ Kabaka, whose Wiper Party entered into a collaboration deal with Jubilee Party to ensure they work together in and out of Parliament.
Ongeri, who has been accused of fighting the formula despite his county gaining, was yesterday unapologetic over the position he took, saying he would not succumb to pressure to support the proposed formula as it was likely to create divisions.
“As a national leader I cannot allow myself to be dragged into issues that can divide the nation. I stand for peace and anything out to divide Kenyans, I cannot be party to it,” he said.
The new formula places particular emphasis on population, instead of land mass, poverty and levels of development, as basis for revenue allocation.
But Kisii County Woman Representative Janet Ong’era faulted Ongeri for voting against the bill during the debate on the amendments to the counties’ revenue sharing formula, saying it denied the county more funds to improve the lives of residents.
“I respect Ongeri as an elder but differ with him in principle. I was saddened when he voted against the amendment,” Ong’era said.
Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua, Mutula Jr and Kabaka maintained their defiance against the formula despite the latter’s county being among those gaining.
“We are just from a church service in Machakos with my colleagues Mutula Jr and Kabaka and we are not shifting position.
We stand with devolution; anybody putting pressure on senators to change position can only be fighting devolution,” Wambua told People Daily yesterday.
But Senator Kimani Wamatangi (Kiambu), who insists revenue must be distributed based on consumers’ needs in an area, asked his colleagues not to view the ongoing stalemate through tribal and 2022 politics lenses so as not to lose focus.
“It is very unfortunate a narrative has been created that the campaigns we are advancing are about gainers and losers, and claims being peddled are misleading and tailored towards creating divisions between populous regions and the less populated ones,” he said.