Furore over Kenya's Senate move to grant MCAs Sh2.5b

The decision by Senate to allocate county assemblies an extra Sh2.5 billion has sparked an uproar. The Commission for Revenue Allocation (CRA) and governors have opposed the move to raise the budget ceilings for assemblies, saying it will hamper development in counties.

CRA said it is not even clear where the money will come from. CRA appeared before National Assembly departmental committee on Budget and complained that the draft ceilings prepared by the commission have been reviewed without their input.

“In reviewing these ceilings, the Senate only consulted the Counties Assemblies Forum and not the CRA,” CRA Chairman Micah Cheserem said.

CRA Chair Micah Cheserem. The decision to increase the ceiling is not clear and the Senate has not indicated where the extra allocation will come from. The allocation to counties, the increase will reduce allocation to development. (PHOTO: COURTESY)

“The decision to increase the ceiling is not clear and the Senate has not indicated where the additional allocation will come from. Given that there is no additional allocation to counties, the increase in recurrent cost of counties will reduce allocation to development by the same amount, thereby affecting service delivery,” he added.

Mandera Senator Billow Kerrow, who chairs the Senate Standing Committee on Finance, Commerce and Budget wrote to the Council of Governors (COG) Chairman Peter Munya in a letter dated June 24, allowing 34 county assemblies to spend the extra Sh2.5 billion. This is in spite of the fact that any decision by the Senate can only be communicated by clerk Jeremiah Nyegenye.

Governors said they will move to court to oppose the new budget ceilings. “The Senate that was supposed to be a defender of public resources in the counties has now gone against the wishes of people in giving more money to MCAs, which will go towards funding unnecessary trips, buying of vehicles and ipads,” Munya told The Standard.

Referendum calls

CoG also announced it is withdrawing its support for the Senate following the move. Although the county chiefs have been calling for the empowerment of the Senate in their 10-point referendum push, Munya said the latest action by the Senate was betrayal.

“We have been very sympathetic with the Senate but they keep shooting themselves in the foot. We are now stopping supporting them since they have clearly shown the public that they do not need to exist,” he said.

Munya said they will distance themselves from current calls for a referendum to strengthen the Senate, which despite being the Upper House has less powers than the National Assembly.

Thirty-four counties had petitioned the Senate to revise the ceiling set by CRA by allowing them to spend Sh4,436,518,522 but the Senate instead approved an additional Sh2.5 billion.

“Turkana County Assembly will receive the lion’s share as it has been allowed an extra Sh306,281,440 to take its new ceiling to Sh978,469,820. CRA had approved Sh583,067,198,” said Cheserem.

However, a review of the budget for the county assembly shows that a large sum of this amount will be used for entertainment and travel expenses. “The ceiling for Turkana of Sh978 million is almost twice that on Marsabit of Sh533 million. There are some comparable similarities between Turkana and Marsabit. Land Area (68,680 sq. km ; 70,961) sq. km, wards (30; 20) and MCAs (33; 47) respectively. The operational costs should not be substantially different. Though the population of Turkana is about thrice that of Marsabit, this should not affect the costs of the assembly,” Cheserem said.

Kilifi has been given an extra Sh65 million to take its ceiling to over Sh630 million. The 35 MCAs have set aside Sh4 million as travel allowances.

Vihiga will spend Sh672,212,876, up by Sh197,421,714 from the CRA ceiling.MCAs want to spend Sh40 million in what they call public participation for the estimated 24 bills they want to enact this financial year. The assembly has set aside Sh150 million for car loans and mortgages for its staff. Meru assembly has been allowed to spend an extra Sh152 million, Nairobi Sh151 million, Garissa Sh119 million, Kirinyaga Sh101 million, Nyandarua Sh99 million, Kiambu Sh98 million, Mandera Sh91 million, Narok Sh78 million, Migori Sh75 million, Homa Bay Sh74 million, Nakuru Sh73 million, Makueni Sh71 million and Siaya Sh70 million.

Kilifi MCAs have an extra Sh65 million, Taita/Taveta Sh52 million, Laikipia Sh49 million, Tana River Sh47 million, Murang’a Sh44 million, Bomet Sh43 million, Marsabit Sh36 million, Kwale Sh36 million, Kisii Sh32 million, Kajiado Sh30 million, Tharaka Nithi Sh30 million, Trans Nzoia Sh29 million, Nyeri Sh28 million, Kitui Sh24 million, Bungoma Sh23 million, Embu Sh23 million, Samburu Sh22 million, Busia Sh17 million and Elgeyo Marakwet Sh13 million.