AG holds key for counties to withdraw funds

Acting National Treasury CS Ukur Yatani (left) with Chief Administrative Secretary Nelson Gaichuhie when they appeared before the Senate Finance Committee. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]
Attorney General Kihara Kariuki will advise whether counties can access at least 50 per cent of their shareable revenue pending enactment of a contentious legislation.

But should the AG advise that the counties cannot withdraw the 50 per cent to keep them running, activities will grind to a halt in the devolved units.

National Treasury acting CS Ukur Yatani, Council of Governors (CoG), Controller of Budget (COB) and the Senate Finance Committee agreed that the counties should access half of the funds, but must wait for the go-ahead by the AG.

Mr Yatani, while making submissions to the Mohamed Mahamud-led finance committee, said that to avert further suffering of the citizens in the counties, there was need to address their plight even as Parliament awaits to pass Division of Revenue Bill.

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The CS said that it’s unfortunate the Kenyans are the pawns in the grandstanding between the National Assembly and Senate even as the two Houses prepares for a second mediation over the stalemate.

The CS explained that over the years, there has been an over-estimation of the projected revenues whose shortfall is borne by the National Government.

But nominated senators Haji Farhiya Ali (Jubilee) and Rose Nyamunga (ODM) told Yatani that even though they are still pegging the figure of Sh310 billion on the last audited accounts, the country has almost tripled its revenue from Sh1.05 trillion in 2014 to Sh3 trillion in 2019.

Deputy Controller of Budget (CoB) Stephen Masha, however, told the committee that they have been authorising withdrawals for counties' own source of revenue.

He said some counties have approved their appropriation bills even without the passage of the Division of Revenue Bill.

But Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr drew the attention of the committee saying that in 2014, the Treasury released funds to counties when there was a stalemate on the Division of Revenue Bill.

Kilonzo Jnr told the committee that CoB should not be punished if it authorises release of funds to the counties pending the passing of the Division of Revenue Bill by the two Houses.

The Supreme Court is tomorrow expected to mention the Division of Revenue petition lodged by the CoG and Senate as petitioners.

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Attorney General Kihara KariukiCoGCOBNational TreasuryUkur YataniDivision of Revenue BillSenator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr