The supremacy battle between the Senate and the National Assembly over county revenue allocation has never gone away. Now, it threatens to paralyse operations at the counties. The Division of Revenue Bill failed to sail through Parliament on Tuesday after members of the National Assembly refused to accept Senate’s recommendation that county revenue allocations be increased by Sh29 billion on top of the Sh321 billion proposed by the Treasury for the 2017/18 financial year.
Ordinarily, when the bicameral Parliament fails to agree on a matter, the standard procedure is to have a mediation team from both houses iron out outstanding differences. This team failed to agree on the Division of Revenue Bill 2016, which means the Bill technically collapsed and will have to be re-introduced afresh.
Time is of the essence even though a re-introduction can be expedited. Responsibility now falls on the Budget and Appropriations Committee led by Mutava Musyimi to act with speed and avert an imminent financial crisis within counties before the 11th Parliament is prorogued next month.
Failure to pass the Division of Revenue Bill that governs the sharing of revenue between the national and county governments implies that counties cannot work on their budget estimates primarily because the County Allocation Bill is ineffective without the Division of Revenue Bill. Both sides must show willingness to cede ground. It would be unfortunate to hold counties to ransom just because MPs cannot agree over a piece of legislation.
Where the Division of Revenue Bill is not passed, counties will have no option but to violate the law by resorting to unauthorised expenditure to fund essential operations. It is through such expenditure that funds, somehow, get misappropriated.
This being a campaign period, all possible revenue leakages should be sealed. No doubt, some MCAs, governors and other senior county officials are likely to leave office.
The temptation to feather their own nests is high. And nothing offers a perfect temptation to pilfer than a lacuna.