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End county funding row

Wednesday August 21 2019

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More than 20 counties are in the grip of a crisis that threatens to ground their operations. Nearly three weeks later, their employees have yet to be paid their July salaries, prompting strike threats by their unions. This is a terrible time for the workers, as there is no indication as to when a standoff between the Senate and the National Assembly will be resolved to restore normality.

As the old saying goes, when two bulls fight, it is the grass that suffers. This is clearly the case as the two Houses of Parliament continue feuding over the sharing of revenue between the counties and the national government. The crisis continues even as the Senate held public hearings on the National Assembly’s version of the controversial Division of Revenue Bill 2019 that proposes a Sh316 billion allocation to the counties.

But directly feeling the pinch are the employees, who rely on their salaries to pay their bills and meet their other commitments. It is a gross violation of the workers’ rights to withhold salaries they have worked for.

The county governments have failed to pay the salaries on time as they grapple with a financial crunch. The Division of Revenue Bill 2019 row must be resolved so that the counties can carry out their programmes and provide services.

However, the current impasse begs the question that has been asked many times before. It is whether these 47 entities are really viable. Their glaring failure to raise their own revenue leaves them perilously hanging on the coattails of the national government and unable to even pay salaries.

Inasmuch as they are entitled to a share of national revenue through annual allocations, the counties must justify their existence by exploiting alternative sources.