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Big Three fail to take charge as county cash row turns political

President Uhuru Kenyatta with ODM leader Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto at a past prayer function at KICC, Nairobi.

All eyes will be on the Senate this afternoon amid confusion and lack of leadership from key political players on how the 47 counties will share Sh316.5 billion annually in the next few years.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga have been speaking differently, with Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka coming in for criticism from some senators for failing to provide leadership on the stalemate over the formula for allocating money to the devolved units.

For the last two months, counties have operated without cash as senators haggled over the formula. The stalemate has taken a political angle despite weeks of negotiations and has stalled the passage of the Revenue Bill.

Contradictory statements

Yesterday, Ruto and Odinga issued contradictory statements on the mater even as President Kenyatta kept off the debate that has divided the Senate and the country.

Ruto, who had adopted a studious silence, waded into the murky politics of the county cash, contradicting his boss’s position and instead called for a consensus. “The legislature must as per its mandate structure a win-win formula that is sensitive to proposals made without hurting any county. Inawezakana,” the DP tweeted.

Uhuru has insisted on the passing of the recommendation of the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) report which according to some Senators would adversely affect allocations to 18 counties, mostly in the Coast and Northern Kenya.

Odinga appeared to muddy the waters further when he proposed that the senators revert to the CRA report against the Senate Finance report that had failed to be passed with five attempts by senators to pass the third basis formula for revenue allocation among the counties, becoming a cropper.

The ODM leader’s suggestion was last evening being considered by some as impractical and therefore not adding any value to the debate.

“Under the circumstances, the country and our people would be better served if we adopted the recommendation of the CRA for the next five years,” he said.

The revenue-sharing formula that the Senate has deadlocked over is a variation of what was recommended by the CRA, the body mandated under Article 216 (1) of the Constitution to come up with a formula.

Last week, Lusaka was shouted down by angry senators who questioned his leadership of the House when he adjourned the vote on the report, with some senators threatening to introduce a motion of impeachment.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior said Lusaka had become unbecoming and was under the influence of external forces.

The confusion was evident among the senators The Standard interviewed, with each giving conflicting direction on the matter as the counties continued to face paralysis over the delay.

On Friday, Majority whip Irung’u Kang’ata introduced handshake politics to the debate, warning that failure to pass the Bill will have ramification on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

Over the weekend, Kang’ata’s threat of “no new revenue sharing formula no BBI” laid bare the length to which Kenyatta’s team is prepared to go to get its goal.

Kang’ata’s ultimatum over the revenue formula standoff has been interpreted as a part of the plan to sabotage Odinga’s political ideals.

The new formula, according to some of Odinga’s allies, is part of a political plot to destabilise the ODM leader and spoil his political fortunes ahead of 2022.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei yesterday said they will pass the committee report because they had the numbers.

“We already have 29 senators and we only need 24, we had caucus meetings at Panafric yesterday and we are confident on the numbers,” said Cherargei.

But Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang said there was no crisis given that article 217 section 7 of the Constitution allowed the Treasury and the counties to continue using the previous formula until a new one replaced it.

“Where is the crisis? we can still continue to operate with the second generation CRA until we agree on the stalemate,” said Kajwang.

The Homa Bay Senator said there was a need to have equality and equity in the resource allocations and threats and intimidation would not cow senators from debating objectively on the matter.

“Tomorrow we will objectively debate. There are those whose counties are gaining and do support, others are losing and there is a third column that wants fairness in the whole matter, if we fail to agree then there is no a crisis, counties can still access funds from the old formula,” said Kajwang.

His Kakamega counterpart Cleopa Malala said although his county was gaining in the formula, he will move side with the counties that were losing for the sake of equality and equity.

More amendments

Malala said he will move an amendment to have the CRA recommendation begin after two years so that the matter is postponed until it is well resolved.

“I am also moving another amendment to have the formula only apply when the shared amount is above Sh340 billion so that there is no county that loses in the revenue allocations,” said Malala.

But Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi said it was time the country moved on with the formula given that it was the best way to share the revenue.

“I went to court in 2014 to challenge the use of the first formula because I wanted this current formula used. Now we are here and we will support it, let’s wait and see,” he said.

The issue of revenue allocation has taken a political target, with the 18 counties losing cash in the allocation putting an eye on what the national leaders are doing.

Ruto and Odinga are keen not to upset the counties as they train their eyes on the presidency in 2022 with the 18 counties accounting approximately 5 million votes.

Yesterday, the DP said the Constitution envisages fair and equitable sharing of all our resources and challenged Parliament to play its rightful role in the process.

In a clever political statement, Raila did endorse the president’s position which was a formula agreed by the senate committee, noting that the standoff in the formula was causing paralysis and mistrust at a time the country needs to be united.

“It has also taken a dangerous ethnic undertone instead of being a level-headed debate on the nation’s development trajectory,” he said.

Last-minute proposals

Wiper Democratic Movement leader Kalonzo Musyoka also weighed into the matter, introducing last-minute proposals to uphold population as the key parameter but also proposing an increase of Equalisation Fund to cushion marginalised counties.

But in doing so, Kalonzo demanded that the criminal justice system goes for the necks of county officials who have misappropriated county funds and also called on county governments to swiftly impeach culpable governors.

“There is no doubt that counties have been receiving large amounts of money and not accounting for that money, not utilising it properly and in many instances misappropriation and outright theft is the norm,” he said.

In Kalonzo’s Kitui County backyard, Wiper MCAs have been blowing hot and cold on impeaching Governor Charity Ngilu. His proposals on the Senate stalemate may, therefore, attract political interpretations as did Senator Kang’ata’s attempt to tie the BBI fate to the stalemate.

Download the BBI Judgement by all seven Judges - Civil Appeal No. E291 of 2021
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