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VAS

End discord and give the public value for money

EDITORIAL
By Editorial | October 29th 2021
Chairman Council of Governors Martin Wambora addresses members of the press on October 18, 2021 at Governors offices at Delta House in Westlands, Nairobi. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

In the next few months, we are likely to be treated to another tiff between the national and county governments over funds.

Governors are already digging in, and have fired a warning shot that they will not allow the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) to maintain the 2022/2023 county funds at previous rates. 

According to the Council of Governors, effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the country’s economy should not be the scapegoat to deny the devolved units increased allocations.

But CRA has ruled out the possibility of increasing the rates. It cites high public debt, slow economic growth and the heavy financing of the upcoming 2022 General Election, among others.

The county chiefs, who issued a terse statement a few days ago, have stuck to their guns, saying county and national assemblies had passed a constitutional amendment Bill proposing increased allocation from 15 per cent of total revenue collected to 35 per cent. In the 2021/2022 period, the 47 counties are receiving Sh370 billion from the National Treasury.

Much as the two sides may have a point, a few questions deserve attention. Are the new funding demands legal in the first place and tenable, or out of sync with the current financial realities? And are there enough safeguards to ensure prudence in the utilisation of additional funds by the counties? 

While we fully appreciate the many benefits of the devolved system, it is an open secret that counties are bleeding from pervasive corruption. This is not to say the national government is any better.

As governors up the stakes in the push for more money, they have an obligation to ensure prudent absorption of funds. Since 2013, they have cumulatively received an estimated Sh2 trillion worth of equitable share of allocation. The latest Auditor General report indicts them for, among other questionable expenditures, spending Sh12.3 billion in travel expenses in the Covid-19 period alone. 

Constant fights and duplicity of roles negates the Constitution and is indisputably unhealthy. In the recent past, we have seen the Senate and National Assembly engage in turf wars on the revenue allocation formula. This week, it emerged the Senate is appealing a court order barring a House committee from grilling governors over revenue anomalies. In these turf wars, Wanjiku is the ultimate sufferer.

For long, governors have bemoaned the tendency by the national government to ‘take back’ devolved functions. There have also been endemic funding delays that have dragged counties into colossal debts.

It’s time to right the wrongs. Let there be better inter-governmental relations. The law establishes structures that allow the two levels to co-exist. There’s the national and county governments coordinating summit, which should ensure harmony.

An equally important matter that should be top of mind is the need for a unified voice and sustained effort in fighting graft. The last thing Kenyans want is devolution being made to fail because the two levels of government are working at cross-purposes. With unity of purpose, nothing is beyond reach.

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