The Council of Governors’ march to the Supreme Court on Monday, July 15th 2019 portrayed a frustrated lot with activities in their respective counties threatening to come to a standstill over the Revenue Bill crisis. Despite going into mediation talks, both Houses have refused to cede ground over the proposed allocations for the financial year 2019/2020.
National Assembly’s initial proposal of Sh 310 billion was bumped to Sh 316 billion, but the figure couldn’t match Senate’s proposed Sh 327 billion. National Assembly insists that their proposal has been advised by the funds presently available at National Treasury. Forming the basis upon which the Governors sought the court’s advisory as The Division of Revenue Act 2018 provides that any shortfall in revenue should be borne by the national government making the reduction of funds to counties baseless.
In a bid to silence the demands from Senate and Council of Governors, Majority Leader Aden Duale challenged county governments to prove what they have achieved with previous allocations to warrant an increase in funds. Not only does this fuel the narrative of counties’ greed but it plants a seed of doubt in the effectiveness of devolution. Contrary to popular belief, counties have made great milestones since the inception of the devolved system. They have over time proved to be capable of creating a thriving and sustainable economy and ecosystem tailored to meet the unique needs of each county.
Healthcare in counties has improved immensely with through advanced preventive and curative procedures that have ticked off a number of firsts for them. Turkana for instance, registered its first surgical procedure and first caesarean procedure in 2017 and 2019 respectively marking great milestones in healthcare for the county. These advancements have been replicated in other counties such as; Makueni with its first knee replacement surgery, Kericho’s with the first open heart surgery, Nyeri’s with the first bloodless surgery and Kitui with the first brain surgery.
Counties have further gone a step further to empower their constituents through job creation in various sectors. Through the Kitui County Textile Centre, 600 people managed to secure a decent means of livelihood, negating the popular notion that counties are “hubs of corruption”. Besides a few who have mismanaged county funds, devolution has proved to be a catalyst to development for most Kenyans necessitating the discussion on an increase in allocations of funds.
Considering that the national government is heavily invested in achieving the Big 4 Agenda before the 2022 deadline, it is in their best interests to involve the counties whose functions are at the very core of the agenda. To trivialize the Sh 326 billion that counties are demanding is ill advised considering that the national government which takes up about 85% of the national budget isn’t held to the same standard as counties when the question of accountability arises.
“It is impossible until it’s done”. This quote by the late Nelson Mandela contextualizes devolution in Kenya. Those who were against it can only rally their support behind counties to allow them to reach their full potential. As for the counties, it’s up to them to efficiently use the resources available and constantly involve their populace in making their vision a reality. That way even the idea of raising their own revenues for sustenance as suggested by Majority Leader Aden Duale won’t be farfetched.