MPs reject Senate's proposal to increase counties allocation to Sh415 billion

Parliament Buildings, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Members of the National Assembly on Monday unanimously voted to reject amendments to the Division of Revenue Bill 2024 as proposed by the Senate which aimed to increase allocation to counties to Sh415 billion while it had recommended Sh391 billion.

The majority of legislators argued that the increase in funds to counties meant a reduction in allocation to the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF) and the National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF).

The legislators were responding to the amendments to the Bill tabled by National Assembly Finance Committee Chairman Kuria Kimani and seconded by Funyula MP Wilberforce Oundo, during a special sitting of the House.

National Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Ndindi Nyoro said that while they support devolution fully and increase money given to counties each year, the national government and devolved units operate on a fixed envelope and an increase in the funds will affect NG-CDF and NGAAF.

“This House passed the same Division of Revenue Bill and when it proceeded to the Senate which could have agreed with it as it was it could have proceeded to the next level, we have to go for a mediation with the Senate so that we can have a middle ground on this matter,” said Nyoro.

The Kiharu MP said the country was working with a budget of about Sh4.1 Trillion each year which had been reduced to Sh3.8 trillion and that they had set a ceiling of Sh391 billion for counties making the proposal to increase it to Sh415 billion by the Senate untenable.

Nyoro argued that increasing counties allocation to Sh415 billion will create a deficit of Sh24 billion and there is a need to cap a deficit at the GDP ratio of 2.9 per cent.

He said some of the considerations are that they should cede the Roads Maintenance Levy Fund to the counties and that if the House agrees with the Senate they will have Sh10 billion slashed from the NG-CDF to go to this fund which is not acceptable.

“To safeguard Sh10 billion going to constituencies for development of rural roads, I implore upon Members of National Assembly to reject these amendments to the Division of Revenue Allocation Bill which intends to claw on some of the funds going to the NG-CDF,” said Nyoro

National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichungwah said that the NG-CDF and NGAAF were doing better than most county governments and they will not accept to slash the funds.

Ichungwah argued that they cannot allow amendments that will take away funds from the NG-CDF to county governments which have not spent the funds they have received for the last 10 years well.

“We cannot accept county governments taking away the funds that are meant to go to the NG-CDF which has done a lot for this country in the last 20 years,” he said.

Suna East MP Junet Mohammed supported the Senate's proposed amendment saying it had only sought an increment of county allocation and not taking away money from NG-CDF as it was being alleged by lawmakers.

Junet cautioned MPs against being used to kill devolution asking them to support the amendments brought from the Senate.

“We cannot use corruption to derail devolution, the only money that Kenyans are enjoying is the money that has gone to the ground since the inception of devolution. We are only giving counties Sh415 billion out of Sh3.9 trillion. We should not allow anyone to kill devolution,” he said.

Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi agreed with the Senate proposal saying counties need more funds since they deal with critical functions of health, agriculture and water among others.

Wandayi said that counties have been given functions without the requisite funds to execute them and called for objective handling of issues instead of blaming governors for not delivering yet the lion's share of the allocation they get goes to paying salaries for staff with very little left for development.

National Assembly Majority Whip Silvanus Osoro cautioned MPs against engaging in populist politics saying that NG-CDF has been in existence for 20 years and it has achieved a lot, compared to devolution whose 10 years of existence had little to show for development.

Osoro said that NG-CDF and NGAAF will be casualties if the amendment Bill is adopted.

“You will need a microscope to find out what governors have done. They are only good in moving around in huge convoys and funding hecklers in fundraisers and funerals instead of carrying out any meaningful development projects in their respective counties,” he said.

Migori Woman Re  Fatuma Mohammed supported the amendment saying that counties are working well and nowhere in that Bill is it indicated that money will be taken away from NGCDF or NGAAF as it is being alleged.