Opposition senators vow to protect devolution gains as House resume sittings

Senators during a previous Senate sitting. [Bonaface Okendo, Standard]

The Senate is set to resume its sittings today after two months recess with Senators allied to the opposition vowing to protect gains made in devolution in the last 10 years which they are accusing Kenya Kwanza administration of attempting to claw back.

The opposition allied Senators cited the Primary Health Care and Housing as some of the devolved functions which the national government has shown interest of taking over yet they are devolved functions saying that if this is allowed it might take over  more functions.

Senators allied to Azimio La Umoja have vowed to take the National Treasury and Commission on Revenue Allocation to task over failure to allocate counties Sh 450 billion shareable revenue with Treasury recommending  they get Sh 391 billion while CRA recommends Sh 398 billion.

Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna said Senators are deeply concerned about stalled projects across  counties and that they will be holding respective Governors to account since it was unfair to have public funds going to waste in projects that could have been beneficial to citizens if completed.

“The Senate will be having a busy year where as members of the Azimio coalition we are going to play our role in ensuring that we keep the Kenya Kwanza administration in check since so far it has not delivered on the promises made to Kenyans,” said Sifuna.

The Nairobi Senator said that they Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority(EPRA) will be summoned to appear before the Senate Energy Committee to give an account of all sites where Gas filling sites are situated in the country and on whether safety measures have been adhered to.

Senate Minority Whip Ledama ole Kina said the office of the Auditor General should carry out an annual counties budget audit since it has constantly been focusing on auditing Financial statements and that there was need for it to work closely with the office of Controller of Budget.

Ledama said they will oppose plans to have one uniform system of collecting revenue since there are two tiers of governments so as to avoid unnecessary conflict instead counties should be assisted to make a good collection of their money and make proper use rather than being micromanaged.

“Counties are now raising levies yet they do not have a basis for doing that, the County Assemblies should operate within the law, there is need to work with the Commission on Revenue Allocation to look at the basis so as to ensure that they adhere to the law,” said Ledama.

The Narok Senator said there are several key areas of accountability in counties where they have found that governors focus on development in one budget which makes the County Integrated Development Plans irrelevant as they use it for the next five year without achieving much.

 Kisii Senator Richard Onyonka said that they will be supporting having the Kenya Revenue Authority collecting revenue on behalf of the counties since most counties were not showing any increase in the collections they made over the years which was raising  a lot of concerns.

Onyonka said they will be pushing to have the Controller of Budget have a say on expenditure of funds allocated to counties since currently the role it played was only ensuring shareable revenue was dispersed to counties and did not follow up to ensure that the allocation was well spent.

“We would also be looking out to establish why shareable allocation to counties is not being increased to Sh 450 billion yet revenue collected by the national government has increased, counties require money for development which should not be curtailed at the national level,” said Onyonka.

Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot said that the Affordable housing Bill is at an advanced stage in the National Assembly and that he had agreed with his counterpart in the National Assembly Kimani Ichung’wah to expedite on the bill that will streamline Kenya Kwanza agenda on housing.

 Cheruiyot said that this is the best approach to do things right and get the development projects promised Kenyans underway with time being of essence and industrious Kenyans working on construction sites have to get work to earn a living so that they can take care of their families.

The Kericho Senator said that the existential threat that is unemployment must be eradicated by creating employment for different cadres and skills and that he will ensure that Kenya Kwanza signature project he is achieved by also addressing the issues raised by the courts.

“ With respect to Counties , the Senate shall prioritize a Bill to facilitate a swift transition from cash system into a foolproof and reliable cashless system, as the devolution oversight body , we are shocked that the County Governments are yet to meet their revenue targets,” said Cheruiyot.

 The Senate Majority Leader said that Counties have failed to meet revenue targets due to glaring bottlenecks occasioned by  an outdated cash model with a bill that will compel Counties to deploy a digital system that is verifiable, reliable , transparent and justifiable is required.

Nominated Senator Esther Okenyuri she will be working towards ensuring the Street Vendors protection bill that aims to secure the right to trade informally while also addressing their human rights issues is passed by the senate when it commences its business.

Okenyuri who is the Senate Trade Committee Vice Chairperson said that small scale trading contributes significantly to the growth of trade in the country and that currently there is no legal framework governing street vending that has contributed to massive challenges within the sector.

“ The objective of this bill  is to provide a standard framework to entrench the right to informal trading, for the designation and use of public space for informal trading and for effective organization and regulation of informal trading in the  country,” said Okenyuri.