A new plan fronted by President Uhuru Kenyatta on how counties can share billions of shillings has run into headwinds in the Senate.
The plan is facing resistance from allies of both Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
The formula to guide how 47 counties will share Sh316.5 billion has the three leaders on the horns of a dilemma because although their respective backyards are reaping big, they have to manage the potential backlash from regions that are losing the most.
President Kenyatta reportedly directed the Senate leadership to convene an informal sitting last Friday to facilitate passage of the contentious formula proposed by the Commission on Revenue Allocation to unlock cash disbursements to counties for the new financial year.
Following the meeting, Senate Majority Leader Samuel Poghisio requested a special sitting on Monday. But after the mood of the meeting reportedly turned hostile, Speaker Ken Lusaka convened another kamukunji in the morning to avert possible rejection of the formula during the afternoon sitting.
Senators failed to hammer out a compromise during the second kamukunji chaired by Deputy Speaker Margaret Kamar, prompting Busia Senator Amos Wako to lobby for members to be allowed to consider amendments to the report tabled by the Finance Committee.
The committee report has kicked up a storm because if adopted by the Senate, it would see counties in the Coast, Lower Eastern, Maa, Northern Kenya, and parts of western Kenya lose about Sh20 billion.
These regions constitute a constituency that is perceived to be Raila’s stronghold, and which Ruto is working to court to shore up his chances of clinching the presidency.
Although counties in Ruto’s Rift Valley backyard, namely Uasin Gishu, Nandi and Nakuru are among the biggest winners set to reap over Sh1 billion each, it was telling that Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, whose Elgeyo Marakwet is earmarked to gain an extra Sh329 million, was among those who opposed the proposed formula.
“The formula suggested by the committee is divisive because some counties are going to lose colossal amounts of money. Let’s pass the County Allocation of Revenue Bill, 2020, share out the money using the existing formula and take one year to deliberate on the new formula to make everyone happy,” Murkomen said.
He continued: “My request is to leave this process to senators to allow it come to a conclusion. Let us not allow external interference.”
Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki, who was recently ousted as deputy speaker, said they would fight the proposed formula to the end.
“In the unlikely event we lose on the floor of the House, we will use the available avenues to ensure counties are resourced adequately. We will oppose the formula not only because it affects my county, but I stand with the 18 others also set to lose as it is against the spirit of the 2010 Constitution,” Kindiki said.
Minority Leader James Orengo moved an adjournment motion which saw the vote on the formula postponed to allow consensus after the contentious report was tabled in the House.
“The reason for adjournment is for members to look at the amendments proposed by senators on the proposed formula. This House should allow senators to build consensus on the matter of third basis for shareable revenue among the county governments,” Orengo argued.
Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina and Wajir’s Abdullahi Ali are among those who fronted amendments proposing that a Sh15 billion fund the CRA targets to cushion counties losing in the new formula is pegged at 10 and five per cent respectively.
Nyandarua Senator Mwangi Githiomi also submitted an amendment to tinker with the formula whose import would be to have Nairobi County lose Sh4 billion and have more funds channeled to counties that are already gaining, including those from Mt Kenya.
ODM chairman John Mbadi said the party had not taken a position on the matter, but instead echoed Murkomen’s proposal to postpone implementation of the new formula by one year to allow for further discussions.
Mbadi said the decision was not about winning political backing from certain quarters, but pushing for uniform growth in the devolved units.
“I don’t think ODM as a party would want to be opportunistic by supporting a formula to protect votes from certain areas. Everyone would want the economy to grow uniformly.”
Uhuru’s former adviser on constitutional affairs Abdikadir Mohamed captured the catch-22 situation proponents of the handshake and the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) find themselves in.
According to Abdikadir, “Raila is torn between supporting his new-found political brother Uhuru in passing the divisive proposed formula and being in solidarity with the counties set to lose between Sh429 million and Sh2 billion.”
The former Mandera Central MP suggested that the Kieleweke wing of Jubilee was ‘hell-bent’ on pushing the new formula to have population account for the larger chunk of shareable allocation so as to gain votes in the populous Mt Kenya region.
“Through capture of the Commission of Revenue Allocation (CRA) and recent changes at Senate, Kieleweke thought they were home and dry. It turns out the political impact on the BBI Coalition would be disastrous. ASALs plus Coast making up 20 plus counties will lose close to Sh15 billion while Central gains only Sh2 billion,” Abdikadir said in a series of tweets.
The former MP who chaired the parliamentary Select Committee that midwifed the 2010 Constitution went on: “Meanwhile, Tangatanga smiling all the way to the bank. Rift counties to gain close to Sh8 billion while the political costs are borne by Kieleweke. Only the political instincts of ODM stand between Kieleweke and political oblivion.”
Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi said adopting the formula would present a dilemma for BBI crusaders because it would be difficult to convince the regions set to lose allocations.
“It is NASA counties that have been affected the most. Coast, Maasai, Kitui and Northern Kenya that are the biggest losers,” said Osotsi.
He said telling the people in the affected areas to back BBI for more county allocations while on the other hand reducing what they have been getting would pose a great challenge.
Senate Minority Whip Mutula Kilonzo Jnr suggested that the Senate should consider extending the current formula by a year to give room for further discussions in coming up with a formula that will not disadvantage sparsely populated areas.