The Taita Taveta County Assembly has passed the 2019-2020 budget after a standoff that lasted five months.
This after members endorsed a proposal by Governor Granton Samboja to slash the amount they had allocated for the Ward Fund in the Sh5.7 billion budget estimates.
“We have resolved the budget standoff. We have enhanced allocations for the health, water and education dockets,” said budget and appropriations committee chairman Godwin Kilele.
Governor Samboja had declined to assent to the budget estimates in June after MCAs slashed the Executive’s budget and allocated Sh833 million to the 20 wards.
This would have seen each unit receive over Sh41 million for development.
But after a change of heart, the MCAs yesterday agreed to abide by the governor’s proposal and reduce the Ward Fund by Sh200 million – which was intended for flagship projects – to Sh633 million.
This means that each ward will now receive Sh31 million for development.
The MCAs said they had taken the “route to reconciliation” with Samboja and promised to work with the Executive to speed up the pace of development in the region.
“For the first time I congratulate the governor. I stood here to table an impeachment motion against him. I stand here today to congratulate him for listening to us. We are going to work with him,” said deputy majority leader Haris Keke.
Majority Leader Jason Tuja said they had learnt a lot from the budget impasse.
“The governor has no problem with the budget. He wanted to shape it. The governor removed major obstacles by sacking executives who have been a major stumbling block in county operations,” said Mr Tuja, who has been a vocal critic of Samboja’s administration.
He continued: “Nobody is a winner or loser. We have gained something out of the budget standoff. The governor is ready and willing to work with us. The county is more important than any of us.”
The budget includes Sh4.2 billion from the national government, Sh350 million from local revenue and Sh734 million in conditional grants. This is an increase of over Sh263 million as approved by the Division of Revenue Act.
The Health docket has received Sh250 million for development. Sh100 million will be used to revamp referral hospitals in the county while Mwatate, Wesu and Taveta sub-county hospitals will each receive Sh50 million for a facelift.
The Datu Sawazisha Fund has been allocated Sh50 million, but the budget committee observed that the funds had been misused in the past. They recommended that the money be allocated to specific projects for youths, women and people living with disabilities.
The assembly also allocated Sh147 million to the County Education Fund to cater for bursaries for poor children.
Mr Kilele disclosed that the water department had been allocated Sh500 million while the budget to pay casual workers was slashed from Sh174 million to Sh110 million, which will likely result in job losses.