Devolution was never about fights over funds
SEE ALSO :President Uhuru has let down Kenya: GhaiConsider the last fiscal year. The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) announced that they had collected Sh1.58 trillion. The constitutional minimum 15 per centof last year’s total revenue would amount to Sh237 billion. However, 30.5 per cent of that amount – which is the share of revenue reported in 2015, and the number the government has been bragging about – would be Sh482 billion. For perspective, county governments are asking for Sh335 billion, which is 21.2 per cent of last year’s revenue. The tiff over the division of revenue bill exposes yet another gap missed by the framers of our constitution. The fundamental spirit of devolution was desire to limit presidential discretion in the allocation of public resources. Devolution is supposed to be about greater control of more and predictable resources at the county level. Yet what we have now falls far short of this ideal. Yes, allocations have grown to exceed the constitutional minimum of 15 per cent. But the executive retains tools with which it can manipulate county allocations. One channel is through delayed audits, despite the independence of the Office of Auditor General. The other is by varying the allocation above the minimum. The President has discretion over half of the money going to counties. This is not what devolution was to be about. Given the revealed subservience of the National Assembly to the Treasury on matters budget, what stops the President from punishing governors by withholding half of their funding year-on-year? A potential remedy to this problem might be to have a ratchet clause in the constitution, banning the reduction of funds allocated to counties year-on-year. The other option would be to have a freer and more competent parliamentary budget committee. Finally, we could give the Senate more powers over the Appropriations Act. That would ensure any final figures in the Appropriations Act have county interests baked in.
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