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Ruto strangling parties by starving them of cash

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024 08:00 | By
President William Ruto. PHOTO/PCS
President William Ruto. PHOTO/PCS

The William Ruto regime has once again exposed its duplicity, which is fast becoming its trademark. With one side of its mouth, it shouts for all to hear how it is committed to enhancing democracy, cultivating a strong Opposition and institutionalising accountability.

On the other side, it exhibits with overt actions its failure to recognise the critical role political parties play in making democracy work.

It is crippling parties by starving them of funding and, by extension, subverting representative democracy. Section 25(a) of the Political Parties Act (PPA) obligates the government to allocate a minimum of 0.3 percent of national revenue to eligible political parties through the Political Parties Fund (PPF) to enable them to undertake activities in line with the objectives of the fund.

The fund was set up under Section 23 of the Act, and took effect through the 2017 Political Parties Funding Regulations. Qualifying political parties, therefore, have a constitutional right to get PPF allocations.

However, since coming to power, the Kenya Kwanza regime has treated the PPF as if it were charity or benevolence. It has not adhered to the statutory stipulation on the amount of money to be allocated to the fund. In its very first supplementary budget in September 2023, the Ruto regime reduced funds allocated to parties by over almost 40 percent. This year, it continues the onslaught with further reductions. These actions are part of a scheme to render the parties ineffective so they can run aground in the long run.

In the 2023-2024 financial year, the Kenya Revenue reports national revenue of Sh2 trillion. This means that under the law, the PPF should be allocated Sh6.09 billion. However, the Ruto government appropriated only Sh1.4 billion to be disbursed to the 48 political parties that qualify for state funding - thus underfunding the PPF by a massive Sh4.5 billion.

To aggravate the situation, these parties suffered a Sh867 million budget cut in November last year and were left to share Sh608 million. But even the appropriated money has been hard to access, as the exchequer has failed to release it to the parties, or, when it does, in drips as it deems fit. This has placed political parties in an awkward position as they plan and conduct their activities. As a consequence of this blatant disregard for the law, the exchequer today owes the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) about Sh11 billion as funds accrued over the years through the PPF. The money includes Sh4.3 billion that the Court of Appeal awarded the party in 2016.

Cutting budgets through a supplementary budget is grossly unconstitutional. Article 223 of the Constitution only authorises the national government to spend money that has not been appropriated and not to adversely vary funds that are already appropriated. Article 4 of the Constitution stipulates that Kenya is a multi-party democratic state. As such, the existence of political parties contributes immensely to realising this position. But it is evident that the Kenya Kwanza regime wants to curtal the activities and operations of political parties with the aim of returning the country to a single-party dictatorship.

In democracies the world over, political parties are essential tools of democracy, and their participation in elections offers citizens options on who they want to govern them. And in opposition, they hold governments to account.

Citizens’ participation in political party activities gives them the opportunity to influence policy choices, among other benefits. Thus, any government in power needs to support the development of vibrant, accountable and inclusive multi-party systems.

— The writer is the Executive Director of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM)

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