Cash-starved county governments can now breathe a sigh of relief after the national Treasury released outstanding Sh52.2 billion to cover the first two months of the 2020/21 financial year.
Although the Senate had passed a cash disbursement schedule that would have seen the devolved regions get Sh79.12 billion, Treasury did not release the equitable share for September.
National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani yesterday confirmed that the money had been remitted to the various County Revenue Fund accounts held at the Central Bank of Kenya.
“We are today (yesterday) releasing Sh52.2 billion to the counties,” said Mr Yatani, urging the devolved governments to prioritise payment of pending bills.
The release of the funds, the CS said, will jump-start stalled operations in the counties and restore normalcy after three months without cash. “It is regrettable that this matter of disbursement to counties has taken long, thereby affecting service delivery at the county level, especially at this time of Covid-19,” he said.
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The counties will now have to make a requisition to the Controller of Budget to access the funds. Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakango, however, recently revealed that Kitui, Mandera and Wajir counties had not presented their budgets to her office for scrutiny and approval to allow for the disbursement of their share of the money.
Nairobi County will get the highest disbursement of Sh2.6 billion out of its annual allocation of Sh15.91 billion, Turkana County will get Sh1.73 billion of Sh10.53 billion, while Nakuru County will get Sh1.72 billion of its Sh10.47 billion.
Kilifi County, with an annual allocation of Sh10.4 billion, will get Sh1.7 billion, while Mandera County will get Sh1.68 billion for the two months from its allocation of Sh10.22 billion.
Lamu County, which has the least annual allocation at Sh2.59 billion, will get Sh428.2 million. Elgeyo/Marakwet County will get Sh637.1 million out of Sh3.86 billion, while Tharaka/Nithi County will get Sh647.5 million out of its Sh3.92 billion allocation.
The release of the funds comes after President Uhuru Kenyatta signed into law the County Allocation of Revenue Bill (Carb) 2020, whose passage in Parliament was delayed due to a deadlock on the third basis formula to share resources equitably among the 47 counties.
The new law allocates Sh369.87 billion in the current fiscal year to the devolved units, with Sh316.5 billion as equitable share, Sh13.73 billion as conditional grants by the national government, Sh9.43 billion for road maintenance/fuel levy, as well as Sh30.2 billion in loans and grants.
“It is my hope that the Senate and the National Assembly will find a permanent solution to this matter to avoid unfortunate stalemates in future,” said Yatani.
The disbursement comes against the backdrop of some counties shutting down operations while others scaled back due to lack of funds. Senators, when passing the schedule, termed it a matter of urgency as some counties were unable to pay salaries and staff had gone for months without pay.
Minority Whip Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni) and Vihiga Senator George Khaniri noted that counties faced a difficult time and sought immediate release of the funds.
Kilonzo Jnr yesterday faulted Yatani’s decision, saying releasing funds for two months instead of three was a mockery of the Senate resolutions.
“We passed the disbursement schedule through a resolution last Thursday that the ministry releases funds for the first quarter within seven days. We worked in advance as we got the schedule before the President signed the Carb into law. There is no reason whatsoever not to release Sh79.12 billion, as the resolution is binding,” he said.
But Yatani defended his decision not to release the funds owing to the lack of a law mandating the same.
“Owing to a stalemate in the Senate regarding the formula, this meant there was no legal instrument enabling the transfer of funds to counties for the financial year 2020/2021 pursuant to Article 219 of the Constitution,” he said.