Counties stare at total paralysis after cash crisis talks abort, again

Parliamentary Mediation committee Chairman Kimani Ichungwa (R) and his Co-Chair Mahamud Mohamed at County Hall, Nairobi. [Boniface Okendo/Standard]
County governments were yesterday left staring at a possible total paralysis of their operations after lawmakers’ meeting convened to resolve cash crisis in the devolved units aborted again.

The second mediation sitting on the contentious Division of Revenue Bill, 2019, failed to take place after seven out of nine senators in the team skipped the meeting, forcing the joint team to adjourn to September 11 over quorum hitch.

The development sparked protest by members of the National Assembly who accused their counterparts in the Senate of a boycott in a calculated move to sabotage any settlement on the stalemate.

Only Senate Finance Committee chairperson Mohamed Mahamud, who is also the vice-chairperson of the joint team, and Senator Okong’o Omogeni (Nyamira) were present from the Senate side while the National Assembly side had eight members.

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Senators Margaret Kamar (Uasin Gishu), Johnson Sakaja (Nairobi), Mithika Linturi (Meru), Charles Kibiru (Kirinyaga), Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni), Ledama ole kina (Narok) and Rose Nyamunga (nominated) skipped the sitting with apologies.

But National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, his minority counterpart John Mbadi and Minority Whip Junet Mohamed hit out at the senators for frustrating the talks.

Duale said it was not ordinary that seven out of nine senators were engaged elsewhere when they were aware of the sitting.

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Mbadi expressed frustrations at the turn of events and accused the Senate of not showing the seriousness required to end the standoff.

Senator Mahamud, however, defended his team, disclosing that he had reached out to Duale to have the sitting postponed to next Tuesday since some of his colleagues were abroad while others were engaged locally.

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But the team’s chairman Kimani Ichung'wa said there was no way they could postpone the sitting through phone calls as it was against the Standing Orders of Parliament.

The cash crisis in the 47 counties has sparked strikes over salary delays, with the Council of Governors now pushing for small disbursements as the two Houses seek a solution.

In last week’s sitting that collapsed after the two sides engaged in a shouting contest, National Assembly stuck to the Sh316.5 billion it had proposed during the previous mediation while Senate insisted on Sh335 billion for the devolved units.

The stalemate continued amid report that the counties failed to spend Sh85.6 billion out of Sh314 billion allocated in the last financial year.

The 47 counties had only spent Sh228.4 billion by the end of the 2018/19 financial year, according to a document prepared by Treasury.

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cash crisisDivision of Revenue Bill2018/19 financial year