On Tuesday, the Senate adjourned debate on the county revenue sharing formula in order to build consensus on the matter. There was a proposal on the table by Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja that was not only fraudulent, but also populist in nature.
The Sakaja proposal purporting to create a bracket so that the first Sh316 billion put aside for counties will be distributed not only using the old formula, but also using the old demographic.
This does not solve the problem at hand, which is the equitable distribution of resources.
There is a general agreement that there was some unfairness in the distribution of resources in the last seven years using the first and second formulas, which disadvantaged some counties.
This is why the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) embarked on the overhaul of the second-generation formula as it was found to be inadequate.
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One of the things that made many disagree with the second-generation formula was the reliance on the 2009 population census, which admittedly, had errors in it. This means that other parameters in the formula were also inadequate as they relied on data from the same census.
The 2019 census revealed an unexplained drop in population in several counties, undoing the mistakes in the 2009 report. It is well established that the new formula will mean a reduction in the money received in several counties, and an increase in others.
The thing about population is that it does not grow at the same rate in the different counties. Therefore, it is obvious that the change in demographics will mean that some counties, regardless of what formula is employed, will receive less money than before.
The so-called One Kenya formula, which purports to promote marginalised areas, does two deplorable things. First, it will give counties money for populations they do not have. Some counties will receive up to Sh18 billion for populations they do not have which in itself is a criminal act.
Secondly, to prop up those counties that are getting the extra money, they are deducting it from counties that were supposed to get funding in favour of others in marginalised areas. The narrative built is that money will be removed from populous counties to marginalised counties while it’s the reverse in the One Kenya formula.
As an example, for Mandera to get enough money, it will have to be removed from another county. This means that the Sakaja formula is used to marginalise the populous counties to benefit the less populated ones. Over and above being unequal, the old formula by itself was very inequitable. Sakaja’s formula entrenches inequality.
The notion being propelled that for equitable distribution to happen, counties must get the same amount that they have been getting before is fallacious. Senator James Orengo has on record spoken about equity as envisioned in the Constitution, which is the equitable sharing of revenue.
The Constitution clearly provides for the principles that must be put into consideration when allocating money to counties. One of these principles is that we must ensure that counties are able to perform their functions.
Therefore, taking money away from populous counties to feed the less populous once negates what the Constitution requires. Counties with high populations need more health facilities - education, roads etc - as compared to the others.
It is therefore fallacious to attempt to arm-twist the country to just throw money at marginalised counties yet the money will not be serving any particular population. One would even argue that some counties have been receiving more than their fair share of the national cake.
As Senators retreat to find an answer, any settlement must ensure that all counties do what is due to them. There cannot be an arrangement where counties will not get what is due to them so that other counties can benefit.
- The writer is the Nandi Senator