Uhuru's ministers, county bosses snub Ruto meeting


Deputy President William Ruto after launching a matatu for Ngong Boda Boda Sacco at his official residence in Karen, Nairobi, yesterday. The DP also donated several items to different groups from Kajiado County. [Charles Kimani, DPPS]

Governors and Cabinet Secretaries have snubbed a meeting of a top State organ on national finances chaired by Deputy President William Ruto.

A meeting of the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council (IBEC) was scheduled for yesterday and the DP's office had on Thursday sent out the link to the Zoom meeting to those invited.

Apart from county bosses, others who were expected to attend the ordinary session (14th) of the IBEC were Cabinet secretaries, Principal secretaries, Controller of Budget, chairperson of Commission on Revenue Allocation, Auditor General as well as representatives of Parliament and Judiciary.

The forum was initially to be held on July 21, but was postponed at the request of governors, which saw it rescheduled to July 23, according to the invitation dated July 20 authored by Ruto's chief of staff, Ken Osinde. 

Sources said governors demanded that a formula guiding cash allocations to counties, which has stalled in the Senate, be passed first.

“The governors want the revenue stalemate resolved first,” disclosed a senior government official within the Presidency aware of the happenings.

The stalemate over the formula, which has delayed disbursement of funds to counties, saw Council of Governors (CoG) chairperson Mr Wycliffe Oparanya censured by colleagues during a meeting on Thursday. 

The governors accused Oparanya of doing little to help unlock the impasse on the contentious revenue sharing formula, which would see 19 counties lose close to Sh20 billion.

But other sources said the standoff over the formula was merely an excuse suggesting that IBEC had also fallen victim to the strained relationship between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy.

Governors who spoke on condition of anonymity said they were concerned that the forum had become a "talk shop" whose recommendations were never implemented, apparently because it is steered by Ruto, who has fallen out with his boss. 

Further, officials had opted to keep off the forum because the powers-that-be had sent out a signal that associating with the DP would have some consequences.

“The forum has become a talk-show where issues are not implemented. Those seen with the DP are targeted,” said a county chief. 

Some governors said they were frustrated about implementation of IBEC resolutions, especially after Kenyatta named Interior CS Fred Matiang'i as the chair of the National Development Implementation and Communication Cabinet Committee (NDICCC). The committee, which draws membership from CSs and PSs, oversees implementation of government programmes.

“The implementers are PSs, who are the accounting officers, and are not in good books with the DP. This really deals a blow to pushing for the counties’ issues despite being passed at IBEC meetings,” said a governor.

“IBEC lacks respect and had been downgraded from governors to Finance CECs. The Executive does not respect the recommendations of IBEC and that mandate now looks just part of isolation game,” another governor added.

The Saturday Standard has learnt that this is the fifth time the meeting is being cancelled at the eleventh hour, with other invited stakeholders wondering what is happening.

The last one was held on February 18. IBEC is a statutory organ established under the Public Finance Management Act. The law states that the Council shall meet at least twice a year and the Deputy President shall decide the time and agenda for meetings of the Council in consultation with the other members of the Council.

IBEC is mandated to, among other things, deliberate on recommendations on the equitable distribution of revenue between the national and county governments and among the county governments.

“This meeting was cancelled at mid-night, no reason given with no new dates for another meeting. We received the communication from Mr Patrick Omutia, the Special Secretary, IBEC Affairs in the Office of the DP,” said one of the invitees.

Another disclosed: “We are being informed that the meeting was cancelled after governors indicated they were unable to attend until the revenue stalemate is resolved. We are disappointed.”

The President had convened the National and County Government Coordinating Summit on Monday to among others assess counties' preparedness to counter Covid-19 and review measures implemented to fight the pandemic.

The meeting with the governors was also initially planned for yesterday, but was postponed to Monday at the request of governors. 

An invite dated July 20 addressed to governors by the DP’s Chief of Staff said the 14th Ordinary Session of the IBEC meeting was scheduled for Friday, 24th July, 2020. 

“The meeting will be virtual through the below link. The agenda of the meeting is the letter dated 15th July,” reads Osinde invite.

“Upon request by the CoG, the meeting that was to be held on Tuesday, July 21 at the office of the DP in Karen, the said meeting has been postponed to Friday (yesterday). The link for the Zoom will be sent on Thursday. We are sorry for the inconvenience caused.”

CoG Chief Executive Officer Jacqueline Mogeni acknowledged receipt of the letter on July 20 on behalf of the 47 county chiefs.

CSs Eugene Wamalwa (Devolution), George Magoha (Education), Ukuru Yatani (national Treasury) and Peter Munya (Agriculture) were also invited to the meeting together with their PSs Dr Julius Muia (Treasury), Charles Sunkuli (Devolution), Julius Jwan (Education- Vocational and Technical Training) and Prof Hamadi Boga.

Others were Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Ann Amadi, National Assembly Clerk Michael Sialia, Jane Kabui for Auditor General, Intergovernmental Relations Technical committee chair Prof Karega Muitahi, CRA chairperson Jane Kiringai, Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang'o and James Wahome, County Assemblies Forum (CAF) chairperson, as well as CEOs - Intergovernmental Technical Relations Committee Peter Leley, Judy Oduma (CAF) and Moses Sichei (CRA).

Efforts to get a comment from Oparanya proved futile, as he did not answer calls and text messages. Ms Mogeni’s phone was also off.

Yatani told the Saturday Standard he had delegated to the Director General (DG) Budget, Fiscal and Economic Affairs Albert Mwenda to attend the meeting.

When contacted, Mwenda confirmed that the meeting aborted.

“The meeting didn’t take off. I got information from fellow invitees on the same,” he stated.

The last meeting was held on February 18, 2020, which resolved that county governments would receive Sh316.5 billion this financial year. It was noted the figure, which is equivalent to last year’s, was arrived at following depressed collections in the country.

 [Report by Roselyne Obala, Cyrus Ombati and Moses Nyamori]