The current show of might between the National Assembly and the Senate is escalating to unpleasant heights and the casualty of this is not only devolution but the people of Kenya. We’re about to hit two months since the 2019/2020 financial year began yet there’s no sign of the stalemate on the Division of Revenue Bill ending soon. The second round of mediation hasn’t been promising either given the hardline positions being held by members from both Houses during their first meeting.
With a financial crisis looming, counties are waiting with bated breath to see how the mediation talks slated for this week will pan out as some are already dealing with the headache of staff strikes who are demanding for their July dues. The Council of Governors who sought the intervention of the President earlier this month hit a wall as he insisted that the government lacks sufficient funds to meet their demands. These sentiments were shared by the team from National Assembly who challenged the Senate to prove how they would acquire the additional Ksh 18.5 billion they proposed. The result was an exchange between the two sides over several issues including the supplementary budget that Senators poked holes into, forcing the chair of the mediation, Senator Mahamud to adjourn the meeting.
Kenyans now have every reason to worry because chances are that once the census is concluded we will wake up to the surprise of counties coming to a standstill over lack of funds. Interestingly, the Auditor General has faulted the National Assembly for using revenue figures from his office dating three years back to distribute funds to counties, despite the most recent audited revenue from his office dating back to June 30th 2018. This invalidates the proposal by National Assembly of Sh 316.5 billion that is based on the audited accounts of 2016 yet Article 203 (3) of the Constitution states, “the Equitable share shall be calculated on the basis of the most recent audited accounts of revenue received, as approved by the National Assembly.”
“People must wake up to realize we do not have two Parliaments; we have one Parliament with two Houses. We do not have two houses; one for the national government and one for the counties. We have one parliament and that one parliament must work together because all Bills in my opinion concern counties. You come from a county, you live in a county, you sleep in a county there’s no territorial boundary called national government and one called counties even the national government is domiciled within a county called Nairobi.” These were sentiments shared by Senator Isaac Mwaura which address the basis upon which National Assembly has justified denial of more funds to counties while allocating more money to the Executive.
The 12th Parliament risks being on the wrong side of history as enemies of devolution who denied counties a chance to fulfil their mandate to the people and attain their full potential. As representatives of Kenyans, it is disappointing to see our leaders getting caught up in supremacy battles and losing sight of why they were elected in in the first place. Where a devolved function is involved, for example health, a comparison between the health ministry against the counties would be a great starting point to see whether it makes sense for the latter to have less money with the Universal Health Care goal in mind.
Since corruption in counties has been brought up in the Revenue Bill discussion, the Senate has gone ahead and tabled the Public Finance Management Bill sponsored by Dr Agnes Zani that will curb corruption through the proposed county revenue collection system that will operationalize the collection system and prepare annual reports. Failure to implement this will result in denial of funds to counties. With such a framework in place county governments will be compelled to account for every single coin allocated to them, putting the matter of corruption to an end. To have a system is one thing, for it to be faithfully implemented it takes political will and the ball is in the governors’ court to prove the naysayers wrong by efficiently using the monies that’ll be allocated to them should this stalemate come to an end soon.