When he announced that slum dwellers in major towns will soon be included in the list of beneficiaries for the Equalisation Fund, President Uhuru Kenyatta gave the clearest indication that the fund would no longer be a preserve of the frontier counties.
In its second policy, the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) identified sub-locations within other counties other than the initial 14 to benefit from the billions.
This sparked a dispute among leaders in northern Kenya who said the expansion of the scope of the Fund was unconstitutional and, therefore, illegal.
The first policy identified Turkana, Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, Samburu, West Pokot, Tana River, Narok, Kwale, Garissa, Kilifi, Taita-Taveta, Isiolo and Lamu as marginalised counties.
They were singled out as those regions whose basic infrastructure such as electricity, healthcare, roads and water services needed lots of investment to improve.
But in its second policy, the commission identified 1,424 sub-locations spread across 366 wards in 34 counties as being marginalised.
Out of these sub-locations, CRA says, the bottom 20 per cent are where about five million Kenyans live. The new sub-locations included in the latest policy are in Bungoma, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Homa Bay, Kajiado, Kericho, Kisumu, Kitui, Laikipia, Machakos and Migori.
Others are spread within Murang’a, Nakuru, Nandi, Siaya, Tharaka-Nithi, Meru and Bomet.
According to CRA, 1,010 sub-locations in 11 counties will share 77.3 per cent of the Equalisation Fund. The remaining 22.7 per cent will be shared among 23 counties.
In the just concluded Arid and Semi-arid conference in Malindi, National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale said they will also seek redress at the Supreme Court.
But CRA boss Jane Kiringai said that focus had shifted from identification of marginalised counties to marginalised areas, guided by the smallest administrative unit for which data is available.
“This meant that deprived areas in otherwise well-developed counties had a chance of being identified as marginalised. Similarly, developed areas in poor counties would be excluded from consideration,” she said of the second policy.
Frontier Counties Development Council (FCDC) CEO Simba Guleid argues that while widening the scope of the fund will yield better results in tackling poverty in the whole country, the fund was intended to bring arid counties at par with other parts of the country.
He observed that until recently, areas where marginalised communities are found had remained largely ignored as having a hostile, unbearable environment and a mass trap of starvation, death, deprivation and poverty.
This was compounded by the total absence of infrastructure and social welfare facilities that other parts of the country enjoy.
“The Equalisation Fund was a levelling fund meant to help these counties be at par with the rest of Kenya. As FCDC, we are not against the protection of other poor parts of Kenya but what we are questioning is the process of arriving at this decision as it was not conclusively consultative,” he said.
Mr Guleid said this week, the bloc has invited Dr Kiringai for a meeting in West Pokot where they will be seeking assurances from CRA that in the future, such important decisions on the Fund should not be made unilaterally.
Governors from the beneficiary counties have also demanded the prompt disbursement of the monies to fund activities that spur development and improve welfare of pastoral communities.