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Why senators should resolve county cash standoff today

By Editorial | August 4th 2020 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata

Today, all eyes will once again be on the Senate. Kenyans will be watching keenly whether these men and women who have an important role in the sharing out of the national cake, will live up to public expectations.

Needless to say, Kenyans are growing weary of the lawmakers’ push and pull which has delayed disbursement of funds to the counties. Without doubt, the senators have a right to battle it out–to disagree before finally agreeing on the best way forward. That is what we pay them to do. But this is no time for protracted disagreements.

As we have said here for the umpteenth time, these are extraordinary times. Kenya is in the throes of a myriad challenges. Key among them is the raging Covid-19 pandemic which has upended lives and caused despondency across the country. 

The number of those contracting the virus continues to rise on a daily basis. There are now more than 20,000 confirmed coronavirus cases while 369 people had by Wednesday succumbed to Covid-19.

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Notably, the burden of tackling the Covid-19 has shifted to the counties. The devolved units are required to ensure their hospitals are well equipped and staffed to deal with the pandemic.

Ironically, the counties are starved of cash as the senators wrangle over the revenue sharing formula. Senate Chief Whip Irungu Kang’ata wants the ‘one man, one vote, one’ shilling formula. The bulk of the senators have rejected this, arguing that it would disadvantage marginalised counties. Some are for the current formula which heavily relies on geographical considerations. Today, senators will debate Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja’s proposed formula which promises that no county ‘will suffer loss’.

Without doubt, these formulas have their merits and demerits. It would be in the interest of all patriotic Kenyans for the country to have a perfect revenue sharing formula. But that, from the look of things, is a tall order. It’s unlikely to be achieved today or even tomorrow.

That is why it is imperative for the senators to consider the ‘urgency of now’. Time is of essence. Every minute lost could imperil live/s. Counties need money and they need it now. Already, nurses in some counties have threatened to down tools because they have not been paid. It would be a miracle for counties that cannot their frontline soldiers to take on Covid-19.

If they value the lives of those who elected them, senators must find a solution today. They must find a middle so that counties can get their funds.

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