Governors threaten to shut down counties

Council of Governors chairperson and Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Governors have given the National Treasury 14 days ultimatum to release the Sh94.35 billion failure to which they will shut down counties.

The governors demanded that the Treasury releases the February, March and April arrears to enable counties to deliver services to the people.

In a statement signed by the Council of Governors chairperson and Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru after a full meeting, the county chiefs demanded Sh31.45 billion for February allocation, Sh29.6 billion for March and Sh33.3 billion owed to 47 counties for April. 

“This is a sad day for the Council of Governors and county governments at large. We have just concluded a full Council meeting wherein critical issues of common interest to county governments were discussed as we realize that devolution is under threat from the national government,” said Waiguru in the statement.

The governors said the four months delay was unprecedented in the history of devolution and negated the spirit of the meeting held in Naivasha between President William Ruto and the governors and called upon the National Treasury Cabinet Secretary to immediately release funds without any further delay.

The governors used their annual meeting to register their dissatisfaction with the manner in which the Senate voted on the Division of Revenue Bill, 2023, rejecting an amendment that would have seen the devolved units get Sh407 billion as equitable share in the Financial Year 2023/24.

“This is a new low for a House of Parliament constitutionally mandated to represent the counties and serve to protect devolution. We note with concern that in the history of devolution, the Senate has never voted against the spirit of devolution in as far as the increase of resources is concerned,” said Ms Waiguru. 

The governors urged the Senate to uphold their primary mandate that county governments are well-resourced in order to perform their functions optimally.

Waiguru decried attempts by the national government to claw back on devolution gains by seeking to micromanage county governments mandate on revenue collection as prescribed under Article 209(4) of the Constitution.

“There is no reason why county governments should be submitting particulars of new taxes to the National Treasury and Commission on Revenue Allocation. Chapter 12 of the COK gives the two levels f government distinct mandates on the revenue raising capabilities,” said Waiguru.

She termed the Bill before parliament unconstitutional and noted that the counties were not subservient to national government and it should never be mandatory for counties to submit a list of all taxes, fees and levies to the National Treasury CS. 

On the review of the Public Finance management Act, 2012, Waiguru said that for over the last 10 years, the governors had been able to identify what works and what needs to be streamlined and identified the aspect was the role of the National Treasury in serving the two levels of Government as contemplated in law.

“The Ministry of Finance and the National Treasury should be separated. To address this challenge and many other issues clawing back on devolution we call for a comprehensive review of the Public Finance Management Act of 2012,” she said.

The governors noted that on the managed equipment services (MES), four out of five contracts signed by the Ministry of Health had expired with the last contract coming to an end on May 25.

“It was agreed that a comprehensive report on the MES to be completed in two weeks. This report will offer guidance on how the services can be continued within the confines of the law while ensuring value for money. The report to be discussed during a retreat to be held on the 5th - 6th of June, 2023.

In the meantime the governor noted that the status quo should remain and ensure services are not interrupted while they await the ministry to communicate officially to the Council on the continuity of services.

CoG announced that it was in the process of planning the Devolution Conference from August 15 to 19, in Eldoret, and as a precursor, to the conference, it was also planning the Children’s Devolution Conference scheduled to take place from July 3 to 6, 2023 in Kiambu county.