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When it comes to knowledge and understanding, first hand is better than second hand.

By Daisy Maritim | August 2nd 2020

The debate on revenue allocation is important, but we are making the mistake of relying on Senators to shape our thinking.

These people in the Senate are behaving like ancient Catholic priests who had the monopoly of biblical reading and interpretation.

This exclusive right gave them enormous influence on people, from the King on his throne to the peasants working the fields. Sometimes these priests would be deceptive, and use false ‘biblical doctrine’ to further the Church’s unbiblical agenda.

Our Senators have fashioned themselves as political priests who are shrouding the important details of the revenue allocation debate.

And they can get away with this because Kenyans are too lazy to dig out information for themselves, even when it is readily available.

If you want to hide something from us put it in a book, especially if that book is the Constitution. 

The allocation of public funds was extensively pondered and clearly articulated by the drafters of the Constitution. In Chapter 12 on public Finance, the criteria was laid out, the principles were outlined and the process was presented.

But senatorial political priests who are offering the public false doctrine are hijacking this spirit.   

First is the Senator for Nairobi, Johnson Sakaja. In a passionate speech, the Senator told us two things; that no county should lose a shilling of its allocations, and that we should use the 2019/20 allocations.

Essentially, he was recommending that the current formula should be frozen on the Sh321 billion county share, and the new CRA formula be applied on any amount exceeding last financial year’s tranche. 

Sakaja’s suggestions are not only arbitrary, but they also negate the functions of the CRA, the spirit of the constitution and the success of devolution. 

His suggestions go against the Principles of Equity inferred in Article 203(1) of the Constitution, which lists the criteria that should be taken into account in determining the equitable shares, including the efficiency principle which is about how people use the resources they have.

Here, Sakaja is asking that counties fiscal responsibility or lack thereof be ignored. In doing this he is rewarding bad governance and plunging us into a perpetual loop of rewarding recklessness. Not patriotic.

My reading of Sakaja’s suboptimal action is that he is using the debate to redeem himself of his recent drunken transgressions.

First hand info

He wants us to forget the law breaking Johnson by presenting us with the patriotic, nationalistic Sakaja who is fighting for the people.

But is he really fighting for the people, or blinding them? The senator is suffering from the worst disease a politician could have; populism.

This ailment causes politicians to deliberately suspend logic in exchange for fleeting public love.

Sakaja is applying temporary, short-term solutions to solve permanent, long-term problems.

The second misleading political priest is the Senator for Elgeyo Marakwet, Kipchumba Murkomen, who is using the false doctrine of divisiveness. 

The senator has capitalised on framing the argument in such a way that pits counties against each other. He is driving problematic narratives such as “those other people are robbing us of our allocation” “we are already poor, they want more”.

Murkomen is using the classic weapon of mass deception known as ‘Choice Architecture’. This is the art of framing an argument in order to influence decision or thought in a pre-determined way.

My reading of Murkomen’s sub optimal action is that he is obviously acting on behalf of the Deputy President. But his fellow senators who are aligned to the DP chose political self-preservation over following their political leader’s directive.

And it is exactly because of this divisive politics that these ‘Tanga Tanga’ senators voted yes.

They know that their constituents have bought into the ‘us-versus-them’ narrative, and will shun them come election time.

Kenyans must always interrogate political intentions. The best way to analyse a political specimen, in this case a Senator, is by asking: “What are they not telling us?” 

I say this again; Kenyans must reject mitumba information and interrogate issues for themselves.

Why bank on second hand material when there is firsthand information? The CRA’s full recommendations are publically available. So is the Constitution.

The constitution requires public participation. But there can be no public participation without public understanding.

To paraphrase the bible, ‘Our people will perish from bad governance because of lack of knowledge. 

– The writer is a PhD candidate in political economy at SMC University. [email protected]

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