State to release Sh65b to counties to settle pending debts

The Treasury will release Sh65 billion to counties by end of this month for devolved units to settle debts they owe suppliers and contractors, Deputy President William Ruto (pictured) has said.

Dr Ruto, who spoke yesterday after chairing an Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council (IBEC) meeting, said the Government was in the final stages of releasing the money to the county governments.

The Deputy President, who addressed a joint Press briefing with members of the Council of Governors at his Karen office, said the move was in line with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive on Madaraka Day for national and county governments to honour their financial obligations before the end of this month.

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A recent report by the Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo showed that pending bills had surpassed the Sh100 billion mark. According to the report, the 47 counties cumulatively owed Sh108 billion.

Yesterday, Ruto directed the governors to only pay suppliers and contractors whose claims had been proved to be genuine by special pending bills committees in their respective counties.

The meeting, under the auspices of IBEC and chaired by Ruto, also agreed to meet the House leadership to resolve a stalemate on shareable revenue.

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Present at the meeting were Council of Governors Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) and his colleagues Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma), Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu), Amason Kingi (Kilifi), Samwel Tunai (Narok), Mutahi Kahiga (Nyeri), Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia) and Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia).

National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich was also present. He was accompanied by officers from his ministry, who included Auditor General Edward Ouko, the Controller of Budget, and Commission on Revenue Allocation Chair Jane Kiringai.

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The meeting further agreed to discuss shareable revenue to counties, which the National Assembly and the Senate had differed on.

“Legally, we have to start afresh. However, we have taken the initiative to progress under the guidance of the Deputy President,” said Mr Oparanya, who added that counties were under pressure to finalise their budgets by the end of the month. 

Expected at meeting

The meeting to be held on Monday will also be attended by Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka, his National Assembly Counterpart Justin Muturi and several other leaders. 

Ruto exuded optimism that an agreement on the contentious division of revenue would be reached in the next week’s engagement.

He commended the leaders for working together in ensuring the sticky issue of outstanding bills was ironed out.

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“Every arm of Government will sort out these bills to alleviate challenges contractors and suppliers have been facing,” Ruto told the meeting.

The pending bills committee will look at the contentious Sh37 billion that the Auditor General flagged.

Mr Oparanya said the report on county assets and liabilities was ready, arguing that the Ministry of Lands would provide expertise on land owned by counties and their approximate worth.

The exercise, he said, would be supervised by the Ministry of Devolution.

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Deputy President William RutoTreasuryIntergovernmental Budget and Economic CouncilCouncil of Governors Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya