Senators blink first in county cash standoff

Senators led by Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen (L), Minority Leader James Orengo (c) and Muranga Senator Irungu Kang'ata (R) addressing the media at Parliament on the Division of Revenue bill. [Boniface Okendo/Standard]

The cash crisis in 47 counties is expected to ease after senators yesterday gave in and accepted Sh316.5 billion for the devolved units.

It effectively ended their standoff with National Assembly members who had rejected the senators' push for a Sh335 billion allocation in the Division of Revenue Bill.

The Senate agreed to the Sh316.5 billion proposed by the National Assembly to prevent a shut-down of county governments.

After a meeting chaired by Speaker Ken Lusaka yesterday, the Senate announced it had taken a “painful but patriotic decision” on the Division of Revenue Bill, 2019.

Major disagreements

The sitting was reportedly rocked by major disagreements as some lawmakers opposed the decision to retreat.

The senators are reported to have given Mr Lusaka a dressing-down for not standing his ground on the matter. They accused him of being pushed by external forces to back down.

The lawmakers had proposed Sh335 billion for counties, leading to the publication of parallel Bills by the Senate and National Assembly, and a subsequent long drawn-out dispute pitting the two Houses against each other.

Sittings by a joint team to mediate over the matter turned into a circus, as the sides ended up shouting down each other in chaotic sittings that collapsed twice.

“The Senate, following a meeting held today, has made the painful but patriotic decision to advise our negotiators at the ongoing mediation process to agree to the allocation of Sh316.5 billion as equitable share of nationally raised revenue to the counties,” said Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen.

“This has been a difficult decision for the Senate, but the Senate has been faced with a situation where it has to rise to its calling and put the overall national interest above short-term partisan considerations.”

The development comes as good news for workers who have gone without salaries since July, following the cash crisis in counties.

Governors had last week said they would shut down counties should the mediation team fail to come up with a solution to the impasse by mid this month.

The senators took a swipe at the National Assembly, accusing it of violating the Constitution by unilaterally determining the allocation to the national government independent of the enactment of a division of revenue Act.

“The Senate must express its disappointment at the manner in which the National Assembly handled this matter. The National Assembly has throughout this process arrogated to itself the role of the defender and protector of the position and interests of the national government without any regard to the county governments,” said Mr Murkomen.

The senators described MPs as aggressive, combative, insensitive and reckless.

Additionally, the Senate did not withdraw its ongoing court case.

“The decision taken by the Senate is without prejudice to its position in High Court petition No 284 of 2019, which suit we will continue to pursue as the petition seeks a determination on the constitutionality of the Appropriation Act, 2019,” the senartors said in a statement jointly read by Murkomen and his Minority counterpart, James Orengo (Siaya).

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