County revenue sharing blame game: What is cooking?

Council of governors march to supreme court to present petition to unlock impasse on the division of revenue bill 2019 on June 15, 2019. [David Gichuru, Standard]
Governors have blamed President Uhuru Kenyatta for what they term as manipulation of the National Assembly to stifle devolution.

They say it was wrong for the president to sign the appropriation Bill into law when the National Assembly and the Senate had not agreed on county revenue sharing.

Unlike the Senate, the National Assembly has no issue with the presidential nod which has resulted in a standoff between the two houses.

Governors say financial taps are running dry and are feeling the heat after clocking two weeks of a new financial year without disbursement of funds.

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The storm swirls around the deadlock surrounding the Division of County Revenue Bill 2019, over which governors have differed with National Assembly about the county budgetary allocation.

Parliament wants the 47 counties to share Sh316 billion, an increment from Sh310 billion. Senators, on the other hand, want Sh327 billion sent to counties after accepting a decrease from earlier recommended Sh335.7 billion.

The differences became more pronounced when the mediation efforts between the Senate and National Assembly failed.

"Devolved governance is being attacked by denying county governments their resources. The National Treasury continues to hold counties hostage by always deviating from the Commission on Revenue Allocation recommendation by constantly denying disbursement of funds to counties," says Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya who is the chair of Council of Governors (CoG).

On Monday, the governors marched in solidarity to the Supreme Court to file a petition in which they seek to have five key issues clarified.

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The governors want the court to determine and clarify the role of Senators with regards to protecting the interest of the counties, the lawfulness of the government digital finance management system IFMIS and the formula in which grants are shared.

In the petition, the governors also want the court to determine the vote heads held by Central Government in the wake of devolution.

They also accuse members of the National Assembly of deviating from the recommendations of the Commission on Revenue Allocation in the determination of revenues to be shared by the counties.

The governors also want the Supreme Court to clarify the legislative obligation of the Senate, especially on devolution matters and have accused the National Assembly of sidestepping its mandate and failing to forward county-related bills to the Senate for debate and approval.

The county bosses also want the court to make a ruling on the late disbursement of money to them by the Treasury, which they say starves counties financially. 

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They also want a ruling to be made on the authority mandated to manage the conditional and unconditional grants. They say that the national government has held onto to its management even though such jurisdiction lies with the counties.

On the other hand, counties have been accused of failing to absorb all the money allocated to them. 

However, explaining why this happens, this morning Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr told a radio station that sometimes the counties get the money two weeks before the closure of the financial year leaving them with no time to advertise and award project tenders because the law bars them from doing so unless they have the money.

The Senator also wondered what criteria the Treasury uses to disburse money to some counties and not others even when their accounts are in similar shapes.

The governors have been accused of being long on asking for more funds and short on accountability, according to reports by the Auditor-General.

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