Since the introduction of devolution in 2013, the National Assembly and the Senate have never agreed on the annual financial allocations to counties for reasons that manifest outright power play.
Yet the formula for allocating cash to counties is expressly provided in the Constitution and supporting legislation such as the Public Financial Act and the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) Act.
Counties should be given at least 15 per cent of the last audited revenues. Proposals on the financial allocations are presented through the Division of Revenue Bill, which is discussed by both chambers of the House.
This time round, the National Assembly has allocated to the counties Sh310 billion as equitable sharable revenue. However, the Senate, whose core mandate is oversight for counties, proposes Sh335.7 billion.
The difference has caused a stalemate which, unless resolved quickly, will delay disbursements to counties and trigger a negative chain reaction.
Fortunately, Speakers of the two Houses have seized themselves of the matter and appointed a joint team of MPs and senators to examine the proposals, and, through consultation with the CRA and the National Treasury, find common ground.
This is encouraging because it does not help anyone when the two Houses clash over allocation, yet both are presumed to have a common objective of facilitating counties to operate and thrive.
At the centre of the contention is how the National Treasury would generate additional cash to disburse to the counties given the depressed economic times.
It’s pertinent to strike a balance between what is affordable and what is legally permissible.
On the whole, funding of counties remains a vexed matter. For one, the constitutional imperatives notwithstanding, the challenge that obtains is collection of adequate revenues to support increased funding.
Secondly, counties have failed to raise own revenues to become self-sustaining. Continued reliance on the National Treasury for upkeep is burdensome and negates the goal of devolution, which, besides dispersal of resources to the grassroots, also seeks to create autonomy such that counties can generate own incomes and thrive as competitive and viable entities.
The challenge is for the select committee of the two Houses to critically examine viable options of sharing resources between the national and county governments and, guided by the law and practical economic realities, make a judicious decision.
The territorial war between the National Assembly and the Senate has persisted for too long and is not good for the country. We demand quick resolution of the matter to unlock resources for counties.