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Kenyan MPs cut Senate, SRC and Judiciary budgets to fund counties

Budget and Appropriations Committee chairman Mutava Musyimi

NAIROBI: Members of the National Assembly Wednesday made good their threat to punish the Senate, the Judiciary and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) when they slashed their budgets and channelled additional cash to the counties.

In a humiliating climb-down from their belligerent vow to ignore the Senate, the MPs were unanimous in approving Sh286.9 billion for the counties under the compromise version of the Division of Revenue Bill 2015; but with that, they said they had to "punish" everyone who had put the National Assembly in a corner.

The chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee Mutava Musyimi (Mbeere South) got the nod of the House to drop the Sh1 billion allocation to senators for monitoring and evaluation, Sh800 million from the Judiciary's budget and Sh200 million from the SRC.

The MPs also raided the Treasury for Sh1.3 million, when they slashed Sh500 million that had been set aside for personnel reforms, Sh500 million for a contributory scheme for civil servants and Sh325 million earmarked for the re-engineering of the Integrated Financial Management Information System.

"If you put those figures together, you get Sh3.3 billion and that should balance the books!" Musyimi said amid foot-thumping and cheers.

The approval of the bill means the Government will now not have to worry about a cash crunch when the financial year closes in 26 days.

The senators were being "punished" because they had exposed the National Assembly to public ridicule as anti-devolution; the Judiciary took the flak because of the 2013 advisory opinion that the Supreme Court made making it mandatory for the two Houses to be involved in legislating on the revenue bill.

The SRC was also slapped with a budget cut because it has proposed the slashing of MPs' travel perks.

"The Senate has to be prepared to part with that Sh1 billion; the Judiciary which put us in this mess because of judicial activism must also part with some money," said Musyimi.

Bribe enemy

Majority Leader Aden Duale (Garissa Township) added that the money to the senators "was simply meant for political rallies, and had to be deducted".

Nominated MP Amina Abdalla, who had in the first place opposed the decision to give the senators Sh1 billion so that they support the Constituency Development Fund, told her colleagues they ought not to have "bribed" the Senate.

"I called it what it was, a bribe. Now that you have seen the light, we do not need to buy the Senate. They are the source of the problem we have with the Judiciary. You don't bribe your enemy to make them agree with you," said Ms Abdalla.

But, Abdalla warned her colleagues that they were "opening too many war fronts" at a time when the Judiciary needed the money.

"We have already cut Sh500 million from the Judiciary. Let us not take money from where we need money. We are going to hit an institution for a mistake not of their own making," she said, but her views were ignored.

For the other MPs, the words of David Pkosing's (Pokot South) "anybody who causes a problem, must provide a solution or suffer!" rang true.

Senators Wednesday wasted no time and immediately came out fighting over the move, saying their colleagues were "spoiling for a fight and acting in a childish manner".

Senators Mutahi Kagwe (Nyeri), Gideon Moi (Baringo), Charles Keter (Kericho), Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo/Marakwet), Mutula Kilonzo Junior (Makueni), Hassan Omar (Mombasa) and Billow Kerrow (Mandera) lashed out at the MPs for taking away their cash.

"This is mischief. How will senators then carry out our oversight role? The MPs are not acting in good faith. It is the theatre of the absurd," said Gideon.

Kagwe, who co-chaired the mediation team's meeting, termed the move as aimed at undermining counties.

"These people do not want counties to succeed. This is not an honourable attitude. It will definitely take legal action. Why should we sacrifice counties just to prove a point?" Kagwe asked.

Kerrow said, "This is just petty politics. Senators have existed without this money and they continue to exist without it."

The Mandera senator said the extra Sh3.3 billion was a negotiated deal, and that the Senate finance committee had suggested where the funds were to come from.

"This is not a supremacy battle between the two Houses. We should focus more on ensuring counties function properly."

"Next year we will be even more vicious. If the National Assembly hoped to break our spirit, let them be told we will continue striving," said Murkomen.

Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr said, "The next revolution will be the revolt by Kenyans against their own representatives."

Omar said, "There was a point I thought Rev Musyimi could lead the country. I am perplexed that he cannot lead a committee or a mediation process to a conclusion without derogatory reference to the senators or the Supreme Court."

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