Stand-off looms over Sh370b to devolved units

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021 00:00 |
Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi briefs the press after a meeting with the Treasury in Nairobi, yesterday. Photo/PD/Njenga Kungu

Lewis Njoka @LewisNjoka

Senators yesterday accused the National Treasury of plotting not to honour the government’s promise to allocate Sh370 billion to the counties.

Speaking at Parliament Buildings, the senators voiced fears that there was a plot by the Treasury, to instead disburse the lesser figure of the Sh316 billion to the devolved units.

 “The drums that we are hearing beating from the Treasury, Mr Speaker, are not very encouraging and it does appear like the formula that we passed in its very first application, is going to be honoured,” Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula said.

“We want to see, that whatever happens with the national purse, the first pride of honour by the Executive and the Treasury, is to honour the promise given of Sh370 billion in the budget that is coming in due course,” he added.

His sentiments were echoed by Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja who said the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA), had plans to allocate Sh316 billion to counties, with the remaining Sh53 billion given as conditional grants, contrary to the wishes of the Senate.

“If you look at the proposals that have been brought by the CRA, there’s an attempt to circumvent the resolution of this House on the formula through the backdoor,” Sakaja said.

The senators spoke as the Council of Governors (CoG), the National Treasury and the CRA, adopted a unified position on revenue allocation, in a bid to have a non-contested revenue sharing formula.

The position was adopted yesterday, following a meeting between representatives of the three parties, held at the Treasury Building, to iron out contested issues in the revenue sharing formula.

Last year witnessed protracted debates over the formula, that saw senators fail to agree despite meeting over seven times.

“We have narrowed down all the differences, we have now agreed on a position, CRA was also involved.

We are now looking forward to going for  Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council (IBEC), with one position unlike in the past, where we go and speak in tongues and leave with a lot of challenges,” said Treasury Cabinet Secretary (CS), Ukur Yatani.

Fruitful discussions

Last week, Yatani, said the December allocation to counties would be disbursed beginning end of this week, a huge relief to counties, many of which have complained of being cash-strapped in the recent past.

He however warned that priority would be given to counties that have absorbed well the amounts allocated to them.

According to the CS, some 15 counties are yet to spend Sh130 billion allocated to them. the money is currently lying idle in the Central Bank of Kenya.

Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi, who is also the chair of the Finance, Planning and Economic Affairs Committee at the CoG, yesterday said they discussed a number of issues, relating to finances of counties and adopted a unified position, which they will be defending during the IBEC meeting today.

“We have had very fruitful discussions throughout the day and we have had the opportunity to look at a number of issues and make progress together,” Muriithi said.

“Usually what happens, the CRA has recommendations, the Treasury has a position, the CoG has a position, and a lot of time is spent trying to harmonise these positions.

This year, we want to have one unified position that moves all of us forward and that is what we are trying to achieve,” he added.

During the event, the CS withheld details on the amount to be disbursed to counties, promising to give more details later.

It is unclear whether the counties will be receiving Sh316.5 billion like they did last financial year or Sh370 billion.

“We have looked at how we are going to raise that amount. It may be premature to give you the details at this stage.

But we have one common position and that is what we are going to IBEC with. And whatever amount of money that goes to the county in my view is a welcome gesture,” Yatani said.

“We have rationalised on our general expenditure and provided resources that the counties deserve, under the current situation to enable them undertake their mandate effectively,” he added.

Last month, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission endorsed President Uhuru Kenyatta’s pledge to allocate the county governments an additional Sh53.5 billion in the 2021/2022 Financial Year, to hit Sh370 billion up from Sh316.5 billion allocated this financial year. Earlier in the day, however, Muriithi had promised to push for Sh370 billion.

“We have had many discussions and negotiations since last year for equitable share to be at Sh370 billion and that is what we will be aiming at,” he said.

Muriithi called on Treasury to expedite the disbursement of equitable revenue share to counties saying the exercise was three months behind schedule.

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