President Uhuru Kenyatta has signed into law the Division of Revenue Bill 2019, putting to rest months of bitter clashes between the National Assembly, Senate and governors. And the breakthrough only came when the Senate climbed down and accepted the proposal by the National Assembly of disbursing Sh316 billion to the counties as opposed to their offer of Sh327 billion.
The acrimony over the revenue allocation was so intense and ended up at the Supreme Court, which tactfully declined to make a ruling but charged the two chambers of Parliament to discuss and agree on the figures.
But the fact is that the impasse has been unlocked and counties can now draw from the government.
Once they access the money, counties must clear all pending bills. Counties have become the worst payers.
Contractors and suppliers at the counties are hurting due to huge unpaid bills.
President Kenyatta directed the counties to pay the large bills they owe to the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa), which have disrupted medical provisions and also pose a serious threat to the universal healthcare plan.
Besides pending bills, counties have become notorious for reckless spending and wasteful projects. Governors, county officials and Members of County Assemblies are perennially travelling for all sorts of reasons, incurring huge bills.
Many unplanned projects are initiated but never completed. Corruption and pilferage are commonplace.
Some counties spend cash on meaningless undertakings. There is general leak of public funds and service delivery is poor.
Also, counties have singularly failed to raise revenues. In its latest report, the office of the Auditor General castigated counties for their inability to meet revenue targets and worse, the collections were declining year on year.
For example, in 2017/18, counties only collected Sh32.5 billion against a target of Sh49.2 billion.
Due to this, the regions depend heavily on the national government for capitation and if that delays, as happened this time round due to the stalemate over revenue allocation, they are thrown into a financial crisis.
Yet the objective of devolution, beyond securing equitable resource distribution, is to empower counties to organise themselves and utilise own resources to create wealth.
With the resolution of the cash standoff, counties must deliver services. Importantly, they have to use resources prudently.
Grand corruption and wastage that have become hallmarks of county governments have to end. Looters must also be arrested and sanctioned.