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Buck of county shutdown rests with senators

By Megan Anyango | September 17th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

If the directive to shut down counties is not rescinded soon, many Kenyans could lose their lives, not from the infamous coronavirus but easy curable diseases, as hospitals close their doors. Many people risk being unable to access timely medical attention from state-funded county-run health facilities.

During the shutdown, no taxpayer will be exempted from paying to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Businesses will have to remit trading fees to their respective county governments, individuals will pay their value added taxes and other county imposed taxes.

This skewed order of things has been brought to us by the decision of the 47 county governors, through their council, to shut down provision of select services, scale down others, whilst keeping some at normal capacity.

Among the services the wise governors have chosen to completely close are in-patient admissions in county-run hospitals. Revenue collection will, however, run as usual. Everyone can see where the priorities of our county bosses.

But how did we get here? Council of Governor chair Wycliffe Ambetsa Oparanya on Wednesday announced that his group of 47 had decided to scale down operations and send home most of the county workers ostensibly because the devolved units had not received finances from the national government.

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The council argued that three and a half months into the financial year, counties couldn’t run on words alone. Rightly so, the workers – including the governors – need money to survive. But where are the other monies paid directly to the counties? Are they enough to sustain essential county services?

By now, however, almost all Kenyans know that allocation of funds to counties has not been done. This is because the Senate has not yet passed the requisite revenue allocation formula that the National Treasury will use to disburse money.

The 47 elected senators, whose main mandate is to protect the interests of their respective counties at the national level, and their 20 nominated colleagues have not passed the crucial Revenue Allocation Bill. They have been debating about the formula without success for some nine times before the Wednesday decision by the governors. All those sittings to discuss one issue and some 67 adults and their leadership have not been unable to agree on a formula to disburse resources for the country.

The Senate, with all the pompousness of its individual members, has surely been a disappointment. It has been the weakest link in resolving an issue that shouldn’t be a contentious issue in the first place.

It looks like the senators take pleasure in engaging in long verbal discussions just to prove their oratory skills and listen to themselves without giving any plausible direction.

You would have seen how they competed each other on the floor of the House on Wednesday afternoon to get a chance to hit the governors and issue threats. A stranger in the country would be forgiven to think Oparanya and his 46 brothers and sisters have just woken and closed down the counties and the 68 county prefects didn’t know and can’t understand why.

As a country we need to sit down our senators and get them understand that as much as the Senate is a debating house, it is more than a talk show parade for competition of oratory prowess. Unlike school debating clubs, Parliament has the grave responsibility of steering the country and debates in that House must provide time bound decisions.

-Ms Anyango is a social commentator. [email protected]

County Shutdown Senate Revenue Allocation
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