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Senate passes revenue bill with Sh335 billion for counties

Wednesday August 7 2019

Governors and senators at top court

Governors, deputy governors and senators at the Supreme Court, where they filed a petition on the division of revenue bill on July 15, 2019. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

IBRAHIM ORUKO
By IBRAHIM ORUKO
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The Senate has passed the National Assembly’s version of the Division of Revenue Bill increasing the amount due to counties, triggering another round of confrontation with the National Assembly.

The Senate amended the bill increasing allocation from Sh316 billion to Sh335 billion and removing the Sh6.2 billion that had been allocated to the controversial Managed Equipment Services scheme, in what appeared to be a slap in the face of the National Assembly.

This means the country could be in for another round of mediation process should the National Assembly disagree with the amendments that pitted the two houses since last March when the Bill was first introduced in Parliament.

DEBATE

The move is likely to delay disbursement of funds to counties as it goes back to the same position the two Houses earlier rejected, leading to collapse of the initial bill.

The two Houses proceed to their long recess on Thursday and there is fear that without resolution of the standoff, counties could slide further into financial paralysis.

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The Senate has passed its own version of the bill with similar proposals but its debate in the National Assembly, where it was submitted for concurrence as required by law, was stopped by Speaker Justin Muturi on grounds that the bill could not originate from the Senate.

Quoting Article 218 of the Constitution, Mr Muturi declared that the bill could only originate from the National Assembly.

REVENUE COLLECTION

The two houses have sharply disagreed on the exact amount in the equitable revenue share to counties.

The National Assembly and National Treasury have allocated counties Sh316 billion, arguing that this has been occasioned by underperformance in revenue collection.

On the hand the Senate wants the counties get Sh335 billion being a scientific figure developed by the Commission on Revenue Allocation.

The CRA figure has taken into account inflation rates for the next three years.

PRESIDENT'S POSITION

President Uhuru Kenyatta has thrown his weight behind the position adopted by the National Treasury and National Assembly, asking counties to be satisfied with the Sh316 billion because the government has no money.

“We have no money to offer to the counties. We can’t print money and we have offered them what we have. They should account for what they are given and curb corruption before demanding what we don’t have,” the President said at the funeral of former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth's mother.

During the burial of former Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso, the Council of Governors appealed to President Kenyatta to step in and sort out the stalemate on funding to counties.

The council said the hard stance taken by the Senate and National Assembly is hurting counties.

CoG Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) pleaded with the President to intervene, saying he has all the powers to bring the stalemate to an end to relieve counties and governors from the current financial crisis.

"QUID PRO QUO"

A majority of the senators opposed the bill being discussed on Wednesday and urged Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki to subject it to the same treatment that Mr Muturi subjected theirs.

“As a matter of quid pro quo, you should subject the bill to the same [treatment the National Assembly subjected ours]. Today's debate on this bill is premature,” Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula said.

However, Prof Kindiki rejected the plea, asking the senators to rise above partisanship and consider the interests of the people they represent.

“We are at a critical constitutional moment that calls for the Senate to rise above and provide a clear and concise way forward on the division of revenue process,” he said.