The current quagmire on the proposed sharable revenue between the national and county governments is derailing devolution. It is even more unfortunate because it can be avoided. The governors have warned that they will tomorrow hold a demonstration outside the National Treasury in Nairobi and thereafter head to court for an advisory on the matter.
The money to be used as legal fees could pay bursaries or buy essential medicine for the ailing health centres. It is sad that as the governors cry foul, the national government seems to be thriving and unmoved. President Uhuru Kenyatta turned has turned a blind eye by assenting to the Appropriations Bill, which allows the national government to access funds.
The current impasse where the country has no annual Division of Revenue (DoR) Act is a pointer to the Executive’s lack of commitment to ensuring devolution succeeds. Without this law in place the Senate cannot pass the County Allocation of Revenue, which shares resources equitably among the 47 counties and can also not pass the monthly cash disbursement schedule. This is likely to seriously affect operations in the devolved units including development projects.
According to the Public Finance Management Act, without the DoR in place, counties can only appropriate up to 50 per cent of their budget which is strictly for recurrent expenditure until end of the year. This will effectively paralyse development projects.
The Council of Governors (CoGs) has warned they will not accept to receive cash for recurrent without the development cash, an impasse that should be solved as soon as possible.
Senate had prevailed upon the President not to sign the Appropriation Bill, arguing it could set a dangerous precedent. They added that it is unconstitutional to have the national government functioning normally while the counties are starved of funds.
In the middle of the eye of the storm is Senate’s insistence that counties should be adequately funded to effectively manage the functions assigned under schedule 4 of the Constitution.
However, the Senate feels the executive is not keen to support counties and that is the reason why it allocated Sh371 billion out of the Sh3.1 trillion national Budget. This is even lower in terms of equitable share in the last Budget where counties got Sh316 billion as opposed to the proposed Sh310 billion.
This standoff has also brought to the fore the sibling rivalry between the National Assembly and the Senate. While the National Assembly supports the National Treasury figure of Sh371 billion, the Senate, governors and Commission of Revenue Allocation want Sh391billion on the least.
The National Assembly has gone ahead to tell the Senate that it lacks the mandate to consider the DoR despite the Supreme Court advisory of 2013 that it has powers to. This protracted war has seen counties face financial crisis for the second time since 2017 when the DoR collapsed and was reintroduced in the National Assembly after deliberations. Governors’ attempt to hammer a deal through the intergovernmental budgets and economic council chaired by Deputy President William Ruto has not helped matters and now they are spoiling for a fight in court.
It is imperative that this grandstanding be brought to an end as soon as possible so as not to claw back the gains of devolution achieved since 2013.
The matter should now be escalated to the Summit, chaired by the President and which brings together the two levels of governments. It is curious that despite the Intergovernmental Relations Act stipulating that the high profile consultative meeting be held biannually, the last Summit meeting was in 2017.
The President should step in and directly engage the governors, senators and the National Treasury to resolve this matter. Time is of essence and any delay could halt operations at the counties, especially in Health, Agriculture, Roads and other critical sectors and services.