Unlock hitch over funds for counties

Thursday May 18 2017

By EDITORIAL
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The stalemate between the National Assembly and the Senate over the allocation of funds to the counties has serious ramifications.

Counties are at a grave risk of going without money unless the Bill on this is passed before Parliament dissolves ahead of the August elections.

At the heart of the row is a dispute over the amount of money to be allocated to the counties under the Division of Revenue Bill.

INADEQUATE FUNDS

The National Assembly has proposed a Sh323.7 billion allocation to the counties, out which Sh291 billion is to be shared equally.

The rest is distributed among the most disadvantaged counties under the principle of equalisation provided for in the Constitution.

However, the Senate has rejected the allocation, insisting on a higher package.

Senators have a point in demanding more for the counties.

TURF WAR

But they have something else up their sleeves.

They are peeved that the National Assembly ignored them and went ahead to pass a separate but related law — the Appropriation Bill — that shares cash among ministries and other agencies. 

Their hands are tied in determining what should go into the Division of Revenue Bill, which means they have to approve what is presented to them without variation.

In effect, this is a continuation of the perennial turf war that has defined the relations between the two chambers of Parliament in the past four years.

REMAINING SITTINGS

The dispute on the counties revenue law has grave consequences.

The Senate has only three sittings remaining before its term expires.

If it does not approve the law, counties will be deprived of cash until the next Parliament resumes later in the year.

Yet the counties must operate and deliver services.

INVOLVE STAKEHOLDERS
Unfortunately, efforts for mediation foundered as the two chambers failed to agree, and that is not an option now.

In the circumstances, the Senate should reconsider its position and approve the Bill.

But the matter should be handled differently in the future by involving both chambers, the National Treasury and the governors in discussing and agreeing on the allocations before the Bill is tabled in the House.