Governors from marginalised counties are up in arms over plans by the national government to change how the Equalisation Fund is shared by amending the law to include other counties. They also want the National Treasury to immediately release Sh14 billion owed to them, saying continued hoarding of the money is denying communities their constitutional right to the development fund.
Mandera Governor Ali Roba, who is the chairman of the Frontier Counties Development Council, said plans to expand the scope of the Fund were unconstitutional and, therefore, illegal.
“We are sensing danger through policy reforms using tyranny of numbers in the National Assembly to change what is constitutionally due to marginalised counties by changing the law,” said Mr Roba, who is currently attending a National Governors Association summit in New Mexico, US.
He was referring to plans to change public finance laws through Parliament to widen the scope of the beneficiaries of the Equalisation Fund, currently only available to the 14 frontier counties of Turkana, Lamu, Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, Samburu, West Pokot, Tana River, Narok, Kwale, Garissa, Kilifi, Taita Taveta and Isiolo, to include other poor regions.
In May this year, President Uhuru Kenyatta gave the clearest indication yet that the Fund will no longer be the preserve of the frontier counties when he announced that slum dwellers in major towns will soon be included in the list of beneficiaries.
A proposal to create the Ward Development Fund through the 2018 County Wards Development Equalisation Bill, with an estimated annual budget of Sh24 billion, has already sparked a dispute among leaders, but President Kenyatta believes widening the scope of the Fund will yield better results.
“The urban poor, mainly those in informal settlements, live in precarious conditions and also need to be accorded equal consideration as other marginalised communities in the rural areas,” President Kenyatta said.
The Equalisation Fund is established under the Constitution as 0.5 per cent of all revenue collected by the national government every year, calculated on the basis of the most recent audited accounts of revenue received, as approved by the National Assembly. The money is earmarked for the provision of basic services such as water, roads, health facilities, and electricity.
But, in the middle of these plans to expand the scope of the Fund, the National Treasury has admitted that it has not been remitting money to the 14 counties that currently qualify for the disbursements.