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Resolve revenue impasse to end misery in counties

Wednesday August 14 2019

EDITORIAL
By EDITORIAL
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The stalemate between the National Assembly and the Senate over revenue allocation to counties has now crystallised into an industrial crisis that threatens to paralyse operations and services at the grassroots. Matters are made worse by the fact that both Houses have gone on recess, prolonging debate and resolution of the crisis.

We have stated several times in the past few weeks that the stand-off between the two chambers of the House over the Division of Revenue Bill is totally unnecessary. It is creating unwarranted acrimony but, more worrying, it is fomenting a major crisis in the counties, which now find themselves unable to function. What is quite upsetting is that both Houses are using the debate on revenue allocation to show off their might. Not only is that churlish and reckless, it is an affront to the Constitution and rule of law.

Devolving resources to the counties is a constitutional imperative, not a privilege. The role of Parliament is to pass laws that give authority for its execution. And in case of a dispute over the amount or process used to determine the sum to be disbursed, there are provisions for resolution. That is why the law provides for arbitration. But that has failed just because of stubbornness by the two Houses.

In absolute terms, the amount of money being contested is insignificant, yet occasioning such bad blood.

The National Assembly has proposed that the counties be allocated Sh316 billion while the Senate seeks Sh335 billion, which is based on the last audited revenues. The difference is not that significant as to create a deadlock that is killing counties. Which is why we are asking the two chambers to reason and end the crisis. The difference can be bridged through honest and amicable discussion, not chest-thumping and name-calling.

Ordinarily, counties grapple with serious financial deficits due to underfunding while on their own, they are unable to raise revenues to stay afloat, which is a matter for another debate. But the fundamental issue is that Parliament is undermining devolution by failing to approve resources meant for counties. A situation where funding to counties has to be contested every budget cycle is inappropriate and does not augur well for the future of devolution. It is the surest demonstration that some actors do not value counties and would snuff them out at the slightest opportunity.

We have made arguments for proper financial management of resources at the counties and tough actions against those stealing from them. But for now, the urgent case is to unlock the impasse and release cash to the counties to enable them pay salaries and perform all their functions. We must resolve this dispute to end misery at the counties.

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