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Give counties 50pc of total revenue to reduce suffering

By Editorial | September 10th 2020 at 01:00:00 GMT +0300

Council of Governors chair Wycliffe Oparanya addresses the media at Kakamega County headquarters on September 4. He warned counties may have to shut down within two weeks. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

The deadlock over the division of county revenue before the Senate is yet to be unlocked.

After nine postponements of the debate in the Senate’s plenary, a 12-member committee was formed to unlock the impasse on August 17.

At the expiry of the two-week period the committee had to find a solution, it said a tentative agreement had been arrived at, but the formula is yet to be approved.

A week ago, the Council of Governors warned that counties would grind to a halt by September 17 if by then the Senate fails to resolve the impasse.

This fear, however, has been dispelled by senators. They argue that such an impasse was anticipated by drafters of the constitution.

Accordingly, therefore, they put safeguards in place to ensure counties don’t suffer paralysis. It is this fallback that the Senate says will get counties going while senators continue with their deliberations.

Tuesday’s plenary session at the Senate did not yield the desired results. However, the Senate instructed National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani to release 50 per cent of the Sh316.5 billion set aside for counties.

This comes as a relief since a financial crisis within the counties is the last thing that citizens want.

The spectre of industrial action has been looming large as county staff who have not received their pay, some for two months, threatened to down tools.

The Public Finance and Management Act and a 2019 Supreme Court Advisory opinion that the Senate has activated do not excuse the inordinate delay in passing the Division of Revenue Act that, seemingly, has held counties to ransom.

There is a lot more in the senators’ trays that requires their attention than just the revenue sharing formula. On this, the Senate has failed not just the governors, but the country at large.

While Kenyans appreciate the concerns of senators whose guiding light is equity over mere politicking, this should be balanced against immediate county needs.

In the impasse, there is also a lesson for counties that spend money on recurrent rather than development expenditure.

Bloated work forces impede development while gobbling up a bigger percentage of county budgets yet most counties are yet to streamline their revenue collection methods.

The level of pilferage in counties is high. Loopholes used to steal locally generated funds should be sealed.

Devolution Revenue Sharing Stalemate Revenue Allocation
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