Government shutdown looms over revenue bill

NAIVASHA: The Senate has warned of a government shutdown if the mediation committee fails to reach consensus on amendments it made to the Division of Revenue Bill, 2015, resulting in additional Sh7.7bilion to counties.

Senators have cautioned the national executive and the National Assembly that the current stand-off over the proposed increment, which will enable counties get Sh291billion instead of Sh284billion, will result in its collapse and both levels of government will face financial crunch.

Speaking Monday in Naivasha, on the sidelines of a consultative stakeholders' meeting on the Public Sector Remuneration and Benefits Policy with Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), the senators vowed not to back down on their push to ensure counties are adequately resourced.

The legislators dismissed the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council (IBEC) deal led by Deputy President William Ruto as null and void, since the Senate was not involved in the negotiations.

"The mediation committee is meeting again today (Monday) to deliberate on the matter and our position remains the same, more funds to counties. If the members fail to agree, we will go back to the drawing board (Budget making process)," said Senator Billow Kerrow (Mandera), who is also the chairman of the finance committee.

He emphasized: “The funds to counties is not enough. We must unlock this stalemate because any further delays, operations of county governments' will grind to a halt. It should not go beyond end of June."

This means the National Government will retain only Sh976.9 billion out of total shareable revenue of Sh1.2 trillion. Last year, counties received Sh226 billion and Sh1.87 billion for Level Five hospitals.

Senators Kerrow, Mutula Kilonzo Junior (Makueni),Wilfred Machage (Migori), Wilfred Lesan (Bomet) and Catherine Mukiite (nominated) censured the lower House over its hardline stand on the push for more funds to counties and even questioned who President Uhuru Kenyatta consulted on the matter to be upset.

"Why should the president be upset? The IBEC agreement without the Senate involvement and not canvassed in the floor of the House, remains a mere agreement," said Kilonzo Jnr.

He continued, "Any deal outside the parameters of Parliament is illegal and not binding. The Sh 4.4billion Emergency kitty is very important, taking into account the natural crisis like flooding."

Senators Machage, Lesan, Kilonzo Jnr and Mukiite all stressed that the House approval of additional funds will grounds county functions.

Kilonzo Jnr questioned the justification of their colleagues in the lower house refuse to support the additional funds, yet their constituencies reside in counties and should therefore support the process without any resistance.

The senators concurred that a collapse of the Bill will have far reaching implications to both levels of government.

"The persistent strikes in counties are a manifestation that things are not right. The counties are starved of funds to hire qualified personnel and equipment. The lower House should see our wisdom in this process," said Machage.

The committee is composed of Senators Mutahi Kagwe (vice chair- Nyeri), Beatrice Elachi (nominated) and Boni Khalwale (Kakamega), MPs Mutava Musyimi (Chair-Mbeere South, Mary Emasse (Teso South) and Tom Kajwang (Ruaraka).

"The Bill divides funds between the two levels of governments. It is meant to address crucial functions at the counties presently facing challenges like the County Emergency Funds, Remuneration and benefits and level five hospitals and our position is justified," said senator Kerrow.

He continued, "It is good that the governors also support our position and are even demanding more. The Health sector is facing serious operational challenges because Sh 2billion allocated to counties is not enough."

The Mandera senator said it is unfortunate the National Treasury had indicated health function requires Sh10billion, yet it went ahead and allocated only Sh 2billion.

"If counties are setting aside Sh30billion for health services and the National government allocates Sh52billion to the ministry of finance, while 96 percent of health function is devolved, what is the logic? Our efforts to increase this money to Sh4billion are not being accepted," he questioned.

Senator Kerrow regretted to note that according to a report released by the Controller of Budget (CoB), the national government failed to utilize Sh 288billion develop vote for this financial year, which is slightly more than the Sh 226 billion allocated to counties.

"When the government talks about lack of funds yet almost the same allocation to government meant for development goes unspent, it is absurd. The senate supports the government flagship projects, however we are best place as mandated by law to advice on how much counties should get," stressed Kerrow.

Senators, who are members of committees on Finance, Devolved Governments, Health and Labour, came out strongly on the matter and dismissed claims by the executive and the NA that there are no funds and challenged them to wake up from their slumber.

"There is a crisis looming in counties and as protectors of devolved units, will not give in to any undue pressure but enough we have our way on this," stressed Senator Lesan.

Mukiite added, "Women and children who greatly rely on county functions are suffering. Senate should be held at ransom and continue hanging on claims that there is no funds to counties."