President Uhuru Kenyatta’s firm stand that no additional money would be allocated to counties above the Sh316.5 billion available and the Council of Governors (CoG) decision to relax its position on the matter has forced senators to beat a hasty retreat on their agitation for greater allocations.
This has unlocked the stalemate over the republished 2019 Division of Revenue Bill, which allocates funds equitably between the national and county governments.
At a media briefing on Thursday, senators, after a hurriedly convened kamukunji (informal sitting) chaired by Speaker Kenneth Lusaka, announced that they had dropped their hardline stance.
They had been pushing for counties to get Sh335.7 billion, in line with the recommendations of the Commission on Revenue Allocation.
Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo-Marakwet) and his minority counterpart James Orengo (Siaya) announced the Senate’s resolution.
“It is not enough, but it is progress and the Senate will live to fight another day,” Mr Murkomen said. “We take solace in the fact that to win the war, one must be prepared to yield some battles.”
He added: “The Senate will not allow the entire system of devolved governments that is the basic pillar of our Constitution to be brought down by schemes.”
But the Nation has established that senators had no option but to give in after realising that they were being blamed for the cash crunch in counties.
The first quarter of the current financial year is about to end, but counties are yet to receive their share of the nationally raised revenue due to the delayed enactment of the bill.
The CoG was planning to announce that it was willing to take whatever was available, a decision informed by the fear that services in counties would shut down, with serious consequences for the health and agricultural sectors.
A senator, who did not want to be named, said that when the President got wind of the CoG position, he laid the blame squarely on the Senate for sabotaging counties.
“They (governors) were throwing mud at us and at the same time throwing us under the bus,” the senator said.
“Most of the senators did not agree. But because counties had come to a near-standstill, it appeared as if the Senate was sabotaging devolution. We had no otherwise.”
“It was our collective decision … The boss [President] had clearly said that the Senate was the problem, so we decided to put the matter to rest. We will conclude it next week. We have the County Allocation of Revenue Act in place, but the battle will continue,” another senator added.