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Counties’ shutdown jolts Senate to strike cash deal

POLITICS
By Roselyne Obala | September 18th 2020

Senate in a past session. Senators unlocked the impasse over the revenue bill after they agreed on a formula for revenue sharing on Thursday. [File, Standard]

Senators were subdued into striking a deal following the unpopular decision by governors to shut down county operations over the revenue formula standoff.

The lawmakers prioritised the vote on the third basis revenue sharing formula after the 12-member mediation committee led by Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula and his Nairobi counterpart Johnson Sakaja struck a deal, in record time.

After nine aborted attempts, and scheduling the vote for Monday next week, the pressure from the counties forced the legislators to reach a solution yesterday, following an announcement by Sakaja on the floor: “We have white smoke. Kenya has a solution.”

This saw 41 senators support the formula, to end the three months impasse that saw counties fail to get their monthly tranches for July, August and September.

The Senate Finance committee chairman Charles Kibiru read the County Allocation of Revenue Bill (CARB), 2020, for the second time, in respect to total allocation of Sh369.8 billion and equitable share of Sh316.5 billion.

Migori Senator Ochilo Ayacho seconded the Bill, saying the impasse was good as it got the attention of President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

Status quo remains

“The principal object of the County Allocation of Revenue Bill, 2020 is to make provision for the allocation of revenue raised nationally among the county governments for the financial year 2020/21,” reads the Bill.

The Bill sailed through the second reading without debate, to the third reading, with 37 senators supporting.

In the deal, the status quo remains for sharing Sh316.5 billion in 2020/2021 and freeze the implementation with conditions for equitable share formula to commence among counties for 2021/22 to 2024/25 of Sh370 billion and above.

In hammering a consensus, the team agreed on eight parameters up from the current six: Population 18 per cent, health (17), agriculture (10), urban (5), roads (8), poverty level (14), basic share (20) and land areas at 8.

This means, Nairobi City County will continue to get the lion share with an increase of Sh3.3 billion, pushing total allocation to Sh19.2 billion, while Lamu, the least, will get Sh3.1 billion. Tharaka Nithi gets an additional Sh289 million, bringing its total allocation to Sh4.2 billion.

Mandera that was set to lose Sh720 million will gain Sh967.4 million if the formula rejected by senators was applied in simulation based on the additional Sh53.5 billion by the President, while Kwale and Wajir Sh107 million and 191 million, respectively.

Turkana that was among the 18 counties to lose in the CRA proposal will get an additional Sh2 billion, alongside Kiambu Sh2.2 billion and Nakuru Sh2.5 billion, while 20 counties will get an additional funding of more than Sh1 billion.

Nairobi, Nakuru, Kiambu, Meru, Laikipia and Kirinyaga are the top five gainers. 

From next year, the allocation will be pegged on Sh370 billion and above but capped at Sh316.5 billion, meaning no county will get below their current allocation.

“It’s a momentous occasion for the country and devolution. We may have taken a long time but it was not in vain. Eventually, we have consensus, which was elusive for the last three months,” said Senate Minority Whip Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni), a member of the mediation committee.

Tharaka/Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki praised the deal by the mediation committee. “I am a proud Kenyan. After three months of a bitter struggle, national unity has won over division. Inclusivity has triumphed over marginalisation. Never again should we allow the country to entertain the invitation to walk down the dangerous road of pitting one part of this country against another,” Prof Kindiki said.

Just like Kilonzo Jnr, committee members Sakaja and Ledama ole Kina (Narok) informed Kenyans about the break-through, each tweeting about ‘deal’ or ‘white smoke’

Dramatic scenes had characterised the debate from the onset leading to the arrest of Senators Cleophas Malala (Kakamega), Christopher Langat (Bomet) and Steve Lelengwe of Samburu.

Opposed Kamukunji

“This House has risen to the billing as the defender of counties and in so doing, we are giving the country a formula that will work,” said Wetangula, while moving the motion on the approval the formula.

In the report tabled by the special committee, it recommended an allocation ratio for this year.

“Provided that the duration of the operation of the third formula allocating revenue among the counties, no county shall receive in any financial year an amount of shareable revenue that is less than the amount shared in 2019/2020,” reads the report.

Earlier, senators opposed a Kamukunji by Speaker Ken Lusaka where the committee was to give an update.

The mood in the House was to conclude with the business and allow counties get funds after National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani declined to release 50 per cent of the Sh316.5 billion on “Vote on Account” as per the Supreme Court advisory.

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