Some allies of Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga led in opposing a formula on the distribution of cash to counties, forcing the postponement of a Senate vote for the fifth time.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is keen to have the disputed third-basis formula, which benefits populous counties, passed but has met resistance because expansive regions will lose close to Sh20 billion.
The formula has sharply divided senators, with those opposed to it vowing to shoot it down on Tuesday. They insist no county should lose cash, and if the formula is to be implemented, then more money should be allocated to counties.
Some 19 counties stand to lose funding, which means senators opposed to the formula only need the support of five others to reject it. However, The Standard learnt that more than 30 legislators are opposing it.
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A special sitting convened by Speaker Ken Lusaka to unlock the deadlock aborted as Uhuru’s wing, though Majority Leader Samuel Poghisio, sought more time to build consensus after sensing defeat.
The sitting took a dramatic turn when angry senators began shouting, “shame, shame, shame” at the Speaker after he deferred the vote to Tuesday.
“I did ask for this meeting as a special sitting for 10 am this morning (yesterday). My request now is, the mover (Finance Committee chair Senator Charles Kibiru) is not here, we consider adjourning,” said Poghisio on a point of order.
He was interjected several times by senators, despite Lusaka’s attempts to bring the House to order.
“I request as the Majority Leader that the meeting be held another time to make conclusions,” Poghisio said, attracting numerous interventions from members.
Reading the mood, Lusaka rose to his feet.
“The committee chair, Leader of Majority, requested for this meeting and it’s a matter of grave concern. Therefore I want to ask the chair to hasten this process because it’s taking too long. He must provide leadership,” Lusaka said.
“I, therefore, direct that the House adjourn until Tuesday 28th.”
The House erupted into shouts of, “No” and “Shame” as Lusaka left the chamber.
Senators immediately called for the Speaker’s ouster for adjourning the House unprocedurally as the order had not been dispensed.
“We should impeach Lusaka for adjourning the Senate unlawfully. How do you adjourn the House without a mover, seconder and putting out the question?” asked Minority Leader Mutula Kilonzo Jnr, who is a member of the ad-hoc group formed to hammer out a deal.
Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, in response to Kilonzo’s suggestion to impeach the Speaker, wrote on Twitter: “I would wish to keep quiet but it is not easy, Lord help me maintain silence.”
Kilonzo added: “We looked very foolish. Members could not even hear Poghisio, only for the Speaker to rule. What leadership is trying to do is just increasing defiance. The motion will have to be withdrawn from the floor.”
Lusaka insisted that the House was charged and allowing any debate would have not ended well.
However, he said Tuesday would be the last day to agree on the way forward, and senators must be ready to “bite the bullet.”
The Speaker has convened an informal meeting on Tuesday ahead of the crucial vote and appointed a new team of negotiators led by Majority Whip Irungu Kangata, Minority Leader James Orengo and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi.
The Standard has learnt that most senators prefer a consensus that does not divide them and proposed an extra Sh16 billion to plug the gap for counties that will not gain under the proposed formula.
“It’s unfortunate that the vote was postponed. The sponsors realised they could not have their way. The more they defer the vote, the more the opposition solidifies their base,” warned Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki.
The recently ousted Deputy Speaker termed the formula divisive and discriminatory.
“Even if the supporters buy time till next Tuesday, the formula will collapse. It could have collapsed today, it will on Tuesday and even if the same motion is brought in the future, it will be defeated,” Kindiki said.
He argued that the matter raised is no longer about losers and gainers, but the principle that no county should lose funds.
“It is now national solidarity on one hand and national chaos on the other,” Kindiki stated.
Nairobi Senator Johnstone Sakaja has proposed amendments to the Finance and Budget Committee report on the proposed shareable revenue, which was in the Order Paper but was not considered.
“My proposal was the solution to the impasse. No county was going to lose. We had agreed with Kilonzo Jnr and (Narok Senator Ledama) Ole Kina. However, the Speaker decided to adjourn the special sitting without following the procedure, which denied the Majority Leader the chance to complete his presentation,” said Sakaja.
He argued the gazette notice was very clear and stated the order of the day – it had nothing to do with the chair of the committee being absent.
“These numerous postponements portray the Senate as very indecisive. We can’t continue deferring the vote; the counties will suffer,” he warned.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, whose county stands to gain more than Sh1 billion, said in a statement that the formula backed by Uhuru is a blessing for many counties.
The formula has been deferred for the last year, contrary to Articles 203, 216 and 217 of the Constitution.
“We support the formula. I affirm our position and make it clear that no amount of swinging and adjournments will change us,” said Cherargei on behalf of senators who support the formula.