The County Assemblies Forum has warned that most assemblies may shut down by March due to lack of funds for their operations.
The shortage of funds, the forum said, was due to the budget caps put in 2014 by the Office of the Controller of Budget and the Commission for Revenue Allocation.
The ensuing dispute is the subject of a court case in which the assemblies are challenging the commission’s authority to control their expenditure.
The forum’s Secretary-General, Mr Albert Kochai, on Tuesday said that most of the assemblies were struggling to get cash both for operations and also for payment of workers.
“All counties have now exhausted all the money they had and we run the risk of not having a single cent by March if nothing is done,” Mr Kochai told the Nation in a phone interview.
He was responding to complaints from various assemblies that the budget ceilings by the Controller of Budget had hurt their operations and that the lack of money was threatening to stall their operations.
Mr Kochai, who is also the Elgeyo-Marakwet County Assembly Speaker, said that the situation would get even worse when most of the assemblies resume sessions after their recess.
“Most assemblies are resuming sessions in the next few weeks and without money, their fundamental role of making laws is completely threatened,” he added.
Following the last financial year’s budget estimates and the subsequent public outcry over spending by the MCAs, the salaries team issued a directive on budget ceilings to restrict spending on, among other things, allowances and foreign trips.
The order was challenged in court and the parties reached a deal before Mr Justice Isaac Lenaola to release 50 per cent of the funds in July 2014 to avoid “counties grinding to a halt.”
Under the new ceiling, the total cost for funding new structures under devolved units should not exceed Sh13 billion of the total amount allocated per year for the executives and Sh17 billion for the assemblies.
The ceilings provided a limit of spending by county executives and county assemblies in a move meant to curb misuse of resources and cut down on unnecessary recruitment by the county governments.
In the case before Justice Lenaola, the assemblies want the court to declare that the CRA and the Controller of Budget contravened the Constitution as they had no authority to direct how counties spent the funds.
Through their lawyer Prof Tom Ojienda, the MCAs challenged a directive by CRA curtailing their spending of billions of shillings.
“The mandate of CRA is only to recommend the basis for equitable sharing of revenue raised by the National Government to the devolved governments.
“The Controller of Budget is only mandated to ensure the funds are released and has no mandate deciding how the assemblies will use them,” Prof Ojienda told the court.
The suit before Judge Lenaola seeks orders suspending the circular issued by the CRA and an order compelling the Controller of Budget to release county funds as per the 2014/2015 budgetary allocation for county governments.
Until the case is determined, Mr Kochai said, the assemblies risked losing most of their workers due to non-payment of salaries.