Budget crisis looms over Uhuru’s delay in naming cabinet

By Peter Opiyo

Nairobi, Kenya: A budget crisis is looming following delay by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto to name Cabinet Secretaries as the budget timelines near expiry.

There are fears that the Executive may have to present budget estimates without the presence of the Cabinet.

The Cabinet is supposed to approve the estimates before it is presented to Parliament by Cabinet Secretary in charge of Finance.

According to the law Cabinet Secretary shall present the budget estimates to Parliament two months before the end of a financial year. This means the Jubilee government must present the estimates latest by Tuesday next week.

Suba MP, John Mbadi, a financial expert who also served in the Parliamentary Budget Committee in the last Parliament, says the timeline remaining is too short to enable Parliament vet the Cabinet Secretaries in readiness to present the estimates.

Complicating the matter in the Constitutional requirement that the Revenue Division Bill and the County Allocation of Revenue Bill must be passed by Parliament by April 30. The Executive is yet to submit the Bills for debate in Parliament.

“There is going to be a budget crisis, because we only have up to Tuesday for the Executive to submit the budget estimates. No one is allowed to introduce the estimates apart from the Cabinet Secretary,” Mbadi told journalists at Parliament’s Media Centre.

Even if the President nominates his Cabinet, they have to be thoroughly vetted by Parliament’s Committee on Appointments, a process that may take up to three days.  A report on the vetting would then be submitted to the National Assembly’s Plenary for adoption or rejection.

Mbadi said other operations of the government are also paralysed owing to lack of the Cabinet and urged President Uhuru and his Deputy to submit the list of Cabinet Secretaries to the National Assembly for approval.

“The Cabinet must be in place urgently, whereas the President has the discretion to choose who sits in the Cabinet, he doesn’t have the discretion to keep the country waiting for so long,” said Mbadi.

The new budget process is a product of the new Constitution and other Acts of Parliament which requires public participation in the budget-making process.  Once the estimates are presented to the National Assembly by April 30 the public would give their inputs through the Parliamentary Committee on Budget and Appropriations.

Article 221 of the Constitution requires that the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Finance shall submit the estimates to Parliament by April 30 while Article 218 dictates that the County Allocation Bill and the Revenue Division Bill must be ratified by the National Assembly within the same timeline.

The County Allocation of Revenue Bill is supposed to establish a formula of dividing the revenue among the 47 counties while the Division of Revenue Bill comes up with a framework of dividing the national revenue between the national and county governments.

Mbadi warned the Executive has no option but to put its house in order and move with urgency to name the Cabinet, saying it would be logical for the Jubilee government to resign if it violates the Constitution.

“If the government violates the Constitution then the logical thing is for it to resign,” said Mbadi.

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