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Threats, blackmail claims in fight over cash-sharing

By Standard Team | Aug 15th 2020 | 5 min read
Senators during a past debate.

A showdown is looming in the Senate on Monday as members who are opposed to a controversial cash-sharing formula for counties maintain a hardline stance on the matter.

Senators allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, however, are pulling out all the stops to marshal numbers in the Senate to pass the proposed third-generation formula that has seen Speaker Ken Lusaka faulted over his handling of the matter.

Yesterday, senators calling themselves ‘Team Kenya’ who had ganged up against a report by the Charles Kibiru-led Finance Committee vowed to block any move to derail the vote.

They claimed that Lusaka was rallying senators in support of the Kibiru formula instead of remaining an impartial arbitrator.

They also took issue with proposals by Nominated Senator Petronilla Were, which they claimed were sneaked in at the last minute in the Supplementary Order on Tuesday and preceded the previous amendments, to freeze the application of the new formula until the State allocates Sh348 million.

Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen claimed a plan has been hatched for Siaya Senator James Orengo to table an adjournment motion again on Monday as part of the larger scheme by the government to delay the matter as they seek to win over the backing of more senators who are opposed to the Commission on Revenue Authority (CRA) formula.

“Our concern is that there is a strong indication that Senator James Orengo is planning to book for another adjournment on Monday,” said Murkomen.

In a tweet, Murkomen said: “Speaker Lusaka has convened a special sitting on Monday, but he is busy doing rounds in city hotels lobbying senators to support an adjournment motion to be moved by Orengo in the same sitting. We have sunk this low.”

Lusaka denied the claims and instead challenged both sides to marshal numbers.

“I am not aware. Orengo’s amendment was in the supplementary order paper on Tuesday. An adjournment is moved on the floor when the session is on. Each side must have numbers for the adjournment or the vote,” he said. “I am just a referee. I want this matter concluded. Each side should prepare well. I have not met any senator as claimed.”

Attempts to reach Orengo yesterday to respond to the claims were unsuccessful by the time of going to press.

Murkomen also claimed that some of the nominated senators opposed to the formula were also receiving threats of being kicked out of their seats if they fail to support the formula.

“My call to Speaker Lusaka is that history will judge him harshly if he decides to take sides on this matter. He should remain non-partisan and avoid taking sides,” he said.

“There is no party position in this matter; we wonder why people are being threatened to take a certain position on the issue. Nominated senators are being threatened with removal.”

Yesterday, Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala termed the alleged freezing of his business bank accounts by the Kenya Revenue Authority a ploy meant to intimidate him to change his stance on the matter.

Malala, at a press briefing yesterday, also alleged that he and other senators who support a win-win situation had been threatened to have their accounts frozen two weeks ago.

He claimed there were attempts to make it appear he owed KRA Sh8 million, but the matter was sorted out after a meeting with a senior official at the domestic taxes department.

A KRA official had on Thursday dismissed the politician’s claims challenging those making claims that their accounts had been frozen over tax queries to provide evidence.

Murkomen’s team of youthful senators led by Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni), Ledama ole Kina (Narok), Johnson Sakaja (Nairobi), Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho), Enock Wambua (Kitui) and Kithure Kindiki (Tharaka-Nithi) are not taking chances, and are spoiling for a fight.

“I need your help on Monday. Just give me cover. If they adjourn unceremoniously, I will grab the mace. We shall install a temporary speaker and pass a formulae for Kenya,” Cheruiyot said in a tweet aimed at putting Lusaka on notice.

Ledama also weighed in: “It’s really sickening that we can’t have an independent Parliament in the 21st century in Kenya! The leadership has failed and soon when they are unable to get their way they will push for another adjournment….this time for a very long time and we return to dictatorship! ABSURD.”

Sakaja yesterday also took to social media to air his views. “Dear Referee. Stop training with one team. Let’s all meet at the pitch,” he said in reference to the speaker. Ledama responded, “Or the team will end up scoring an own goal!”

On Tuesday, 25 senators against 20 voted in support of Meru Senator Mithika Linturi’s amendment to the Sakaja proposal. This seeks to apply the expired second generation formula capped at Sh270 billion of the Sh316.5 billion and the balance subjected to the initial proposal by CRA now amended by the Kibiru team.

The Uhuru/Raila axis led by Majority Leader Samuel Poghisio, his Minority counterpart Orengo, Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata, and Kibiru is now banking on the Were proposal to counter ‘Team Kenya’.

Kang’ata yesterday denied knowledge of any adjournment plans. “ I don’t know,” he said when we sought for comment.

On the cards for the government team is an amendment by Orengo and another by Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi, which the Sakaja/Kilonzo axis faults as a tactic to delay the vote. The Sakaja team has complained of harassment and intimidation to support the government formula, but Poghisio has dismissed the claims.

It termed Were’s revenue-sharing proposal as not being timely since it was only applicable once county allocations hit Sh348 billion.

However, a senator in the Orengo camp yesterday told The Saturday Standard that the government intends to increase the allocation once the vote is taken.

“The government intends to devolve more cash once her proposal passes. They plan to increase Sh31.5 billion,” he said.

This is what counties set to lose will get: Tana River (Sh29 million), Makueni (Sh97 million), Vihiga (Sh115 million), Garissa (Sh163 million), Taita Taveta (Sh346 million), Isiolo Sh369 million), Samburu (Sh510 million), Turkana (Sh693 million) and Machakos Sh1.1 billion), among others. [Roselyne Obala, Moses Nyamori and Cyrus Ombati]

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