Leaders of the arid areas have questioned the slow absorption of the Equalisation Fund, with some threatening to challenge the new criteria for sharing revenue in court.
Speaking at the inaugural Arid and Semi-Arid Lands Conference in Malindi, Kilifi County, yesterday, Council of Governors (CoG) chairman Josphat Nanok claimed that the Commission on Revenue Allocation’s (CRA) decision to increase the number of counties that would benefit from the fund from 14 to 34 was unconstitutional.
The fund was created under Article 204 of the Constitution to aid or accelerate development in marginalised areas to be at par with the rest of the country.
National Assembly Majority Leader Adan Duale opposed the decision to increase the number of beneficiary counties and threatened to seek a constitutional interpretation from the courts.
“As leaders from Asal counties, we will challenge that decision in the court of public opinion and even in the Supreme Court,” said Mr Duale.
Kilifi Governor Amasoni Kingi said insecurity and agitation for secession in northern Kenya in the 1960s and at the Coast were because of regionalisation.
Mr Kingi, a strong proponent of the implementation of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) report, said devolution was the key to ending marginalisation and lobbied for more funds for the counties.
“Today is a sad day because the concept of devolution is being watered down,” he said.
Kingi and Mr Nanok said the Equalization Fund should disbursed or domiciled in the counties, noting that the issues it was meant to finance were under the devolved governments.
But Deputy President William Ruto, who attended the meeting, dismissed the calls to sue the CRA and instead urged Duale and the CoG to engage the commission to solve the matter amicably.
“The commission is run by Kenyans. They understand our language, so engage them. As the Government, we will make funds available but they will be utilised according to the Constitution,” said Mr Ruto.
He added: “It is time to stop lamenting about colonial or past marginalisation and forge ahead. As a Government, we have made a deliberate move to open up Asal areas though infrastructure and other projects.”
The DP said projects such as the Sh20 billion Mwache multi-purpose dam at the Coast would provide 138 million cubic metres of water for Kwale and Mombasa counties.
He said the Jubilee regime and development partners were investing over Sh1.2 trillion worth in water, wind, road and energy projects in the Asal counties.
He explained that this included an increase in budgetary allocation to the 27 Asal counties this financial year of Sh181.5 billion from Sh114.1 billion in 2013/2014.
The meet attracted more than 1,000 delegates to debate cross-border conflicts, food insecurity and clashes over newly discovered mineral wealth.