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Governors push for pension scheme in new proposals

Council of Governors'Chair Martin Wambora giving updates on County Governments’ preparedness and response to the Covid-19 in Nairobi. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

First-term governors, Members of County Assembly and County Assembly Speakers could be eligible for pension should proposals by the Council of Governors (CoG) sail through.

The county chiefs, during an extraordinary meeting on Monday, urged the national government to introduce a pension scheme even as they faulted delayed disbursement of funds to counties.

CoG wants the government to support legislation developed last year that provides that governors, MCAs and Speakers be entitled to pension after leaving office.

“Governors, MCAs and Speakers should be entitled to a pension. This benefit should be earned even if they serve for just one term,” said a governor who sought anonymity.

The Bill on the governors’ pension was the seventh item in the Monday meeting followed by a brief with Speakers to discuss the matter with MCAs, as tabled by the CoG finance committee.

The governors also resolved to postpone the 7th annual devolution conference set for next month in Makueni County, due to the surge in Covid-19 cases.

CoG chair Martin Wambora said: "In light of the Covid-19 third wave, the council resolved to postpone the 7th annual Devolution Conference from May 3 to 7 to August 23 to 26 in Makueni County. We are however encouraging participants to register through the website."

This comes as counties grapple with the surge in Covid-19 cases in face of crippling shortage of oxygen and bed capacity. The CoG attributed the challenges to lack of resources occasioned by delay in disbursement of the county equitable share of revenue by the National Treasury.

"We note that county governments are currently spending huge resources in isolation facilities for healthcare workers to cater for their accommodation and food during the 14-day quarantine period," Wambora said.

He noted that Kakamega was spending Sh8 million a month to cater for healthcare workers in isolation. CoG also noted that one county has about Sh300 million in arrears.

Wambora said the Sh4.5 billion counties received during the first wave was specifically for procurement of isolation and ICU beds. The meeting discussed the burden of importing medical oxygen especially for the disease infected counties of Nairobi, Kiambu, Kajiado, Nakuru and Machakos.

The governors also lamented that the Kenya Revenue Authority knocks on their doors demanding tax arrears yet they are barely surviving on overdrafts from banks to pay staff. Wambora said counties are owed equitable share for three months.

"In light of the delay, counties are unable to pay the statutory deductions as required by law on the 9th of every month. In this regard, KRA should take cognizance of the prevailing situation as this has not only affected statutory remittances but also payment of contractors and allowances for MCAs," he said.

A governor who sought anonymity admitted that counties are facing a cash crunch. "Majority are relying on bank credits which only finance net salaries and not gross yet they are overstretched with the Covid-19 cases,” the governor said.

Insiders at the meeting revealed how a governor shared his experience on the burden of footing expenses related to Covid-19, which now stands at Sh280 million. But public hospitals do not charge for Covid-19 treatment.

The government has audited the Sh7.7 billion disbursed to counties last year to mitigate against the impact of the disease. “Counties are operating in the red. How do you expect us to ensure smooth operations when we are not receiving our share of funds and the lock-down has even complicated issues? Our revenue collection has also been affected," said another county chief.

Nairobi acting Governor Ann Kananu, who attended the meeting, said they discussed about releasing Sh10 million Covid-19 surgical masks, sanitisers and other personal protective equipment to health workers. “This will go a long way in the fight against Covid-19. The disease despite being a health issue, has become a major economic issue due to massive loss of jobs and increasing poverty levels which have aggravated food security in low-income urban households," said Ms Kananu after the virtual meeting.

The governors also met with Auditor General Nancy Gathungu as the Senate Health committee started inquiry on counties Covid-19 funds.

The finance committee chaired by Laikipia Governor Muriithi Nderitu took the CoG through the Division of Revenue Bill 2021 amended by the Senate after the ruling by Justice Antony Makau in 2016 requiring the conditional allocation to be excused from the shareable revenue between the two levels of government. The Bill proposes that counties receive Sh409.8 billion in the next budget, with Sh370 billion as equitable share and Sh39.8 billion are conditional allocation. 

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