The Council of Governors has taken the exceptional step to seek court intervention to unlock the impasse over the division of revenue that threatens to paralyse operations of counties. They have filed a case at the Supreme Court seeking advisory opinion to bring clarity to financing of counties and related administrative and operational actions. This has arisen because the National Assembly and the Senate have failed to agree on the amount of shareable revenues to be allocated to counties.
What is quite disconcerting is the fact that the dispute is driven more by fratricidal competition between the two chambers of the House, each seeking to flex its muscle, but in the end creates a constitutional and economic crisis. Ultimately, it’s the people — their voters — who suffer when the counties fail to get cash because the enabling law is being contested in court. Arguably, things should not have reached that level.
Division of revenue is explicitly guaranteed by the Constitution, which stipulates that the National Treasury should disburse to the counties at least 15 per cent of the latest audited government incomes. At least the contention is not on the base figure, but the calculation of the exact amount to be disbursed.
Specifically, the National Assembly proposed that counties be allocated Sh316 billion in shareable revenues, but the Senate roots for Sh327 billion. Clearly, the difference — Sh11 billion — is not enormous. It can be discussed and levelled out and spare the counties and the economy the pain and disruption of a stalemate.
This recurs every year, demonstrating sheer lack of commitment to devolution. Yet all agree that the devolved system is the most viable model for equitable development of the country, having seen the drawbacks that attend to centralised government and the resultant animosities it generates across regions and communities.
Devolution is under threat from various circles because there are actors who never embraced it and would seek the slightest opportunity to undermine it. Dispersing resources to the grassroots and empowering communities to make decisions on matters that concern them pulled away power from certain quarters, hence the preponderance to resist it is high. Hurdles in resource allocation easily fall in the scheme of those naysayers.
While the Supreme Court will have to pronounce itself on the matter, it is incumbent on President Kenyatta to unlock the standoff through convening the Summit, which brings together governors and the national government, to agree on the allocations to the counties. It’s not in the interest of anyone to stall county operations. The National Assembly and the Senate must stop their obstructionist tendencies, which undermine devolution.