Clash of egos to blame for failure of revenue legislation

Early in the year, the world was treated to scenes of suspension of a failed democratic system in the US.

This is as the country reeled in government shutdown occasioned by a misunderstanding between the legislature and executive.

Like any other country, the budgeting process of the US follows the vision and goals of the country informed by ideology.

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In this instance, there was a great divide between the protectionist ideology of the Trump administration weighed against the globalisation norm established by Obama and Bush administrations.

The obvious ideological differences spilt over when Trump insisted on resources to effectively lock out immigrants from Mexico and other neighbouring countries.

He soon found himself on a lonely corner as the house battled to maintain the status quo.

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In many instances, these ideological convictions permeate party boundaries and topple all political loyalties. At the same time in March, Parliament began the process of enacting the Division of Revenue Bill, a legislation that distributes resources between the national government and the devolved units.

The Senate and the National Assembly failed to agree on what needs to go to the counties with the Parliament recommending 310 billion and the Senate proposing 417 billion. Four months later, after many attempts at compromise, the bill is yet to pass.

Government shutdown

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Naturally, without the passing of the bill, the budget read by the Treasury Cabinet Secretary then Henry remains null and void.

In principle, neither the national nor county government has access to resources for their functions. Tellingly, we’re looking at an impending government shutdown.

Six years after the implementation of devolution, one wonders why the legislators find it difficult to agree on the revenue allocation now. There are two reasons that attempt to explain this. First, the country is finally coming to terms with the reality of devolution.

Citizens on the ground are appreciating the fact that now the forgotten parts of the country can equally progress.

More importantly, officeholders are also realising their power and are willing to flex their muscles to accumulate power. In this regard, the Senate, which has since been treated as an unnecessary appendage of the National Assembly, has found an area it can flex its muscle and show its power.  Their alliance with the governors is a formidable power mix. Secondly and more importantly, the failure in agreeing on the Division of Revenue Bill is a symptom of a developing ideological divide in the country.

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In June this year, I sat under the lecture of Dr David Ndii as he talked about devolution.

The senior economist posited that the only ideological difference in this country is between those who believe in devolution and want it implemented fully dubbed the devolutionists, and those who don’t - the anti-devolutionists. His assertions gave identity to my own convictions concerning the stance of the power elite in this country concerning devolution. 

Devolutionists are driven by the need for equitable development across the country, reduction in horizontal inequalities and depoliticising of resource allocation and regional development.

 Anti-devolutionists

To these, devolution breaks the old structures and delivers systematic change. The anti-devolutionists, however, want to maintain the status quo. Government procurement is big business. Devolving functions means that a few individuals will not get the tenders they are accustomed to by bribing a few government officials. To supply medical equipment, one has to get the support of 47 governors.

To them, this change is most regressive and they would like a return to the good old days.

Additionally, when resource allocation is depoliticised, it means the presidency is an empty shell and the visit by the Head of State in one area of the country means nothing. They want to maintain the status quo where the president comes with handouts and goodies and he launches much-desired projects.

As was the case in the US, ideological differences supersede party and tribal loyalties.

This is why the Jubilee administration which has successfully emasculated Parliament, has failed to sway the MPs its way.

The Uhuru government has unashamedly taken the stance of anti-devolution, reducing the allocation to counties every year, with this year, the amount getting to only 11.4 per cent of the total budget. Additionally, governors have continually complained of delayed disbursement of funds and blatant usurping of county government duties by the national government in defiance of the law.

To date, one wonders why the State insists on procuring dialysis machines for hospitals under the management of counties or why technical and vocational education and Training training fund is being administered by the State. Like Trump, Uhuru is working against the tide of change in trying to re-introduce an archaic idea. The failure to enact the Division of Revenue Bill is a symptom of an ideological tug of war in government.

-The writer is the CEO of Elim Capital Ltd

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Treasury Cabinet SecretaryDavid Ndii