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Houses strike deal on funds to counties

Tuesday, May 28th, 2024 05:30 | By
Parliament in session
Members of Parliament during a past session. PHOTO/Print

The two chambers of Parliament have struck a deal that will see counties get Sh400.1 billion as for the 2024-25 financial year.

The agreement came after MPs softened their stance on increasing the allocations as senators had demanded. Senators had asked for Sh415.9 billion the equitable share in the Division of Revenue Bill 2024, while MPs had said Sh391.1 billion was enough.

A mediation committee was formed after MPs last week rejected the Senate’s amendments to the Division of Revenue Bill that added Sh24 billion for counties.

Following the standoff, Senate Speaker Amason Kingi and his National Assembly counterpart Moses Wetang’ula appointed nine members from each House to iron out the differences.

Change of heart

People Daily has established that some MPs started signalling a change of heart at the inaugural meeting of the mediation committee last week.

Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, the chair of the National Assembly Budget and Appropriation Committee, had argued that although he and his fellow lawmakers support devolution, the country could not afford more funding for counties, especially after the budget was cut by Sh270 billion.

Nyoro added that the only way to fill the funding gap was by slashing Sh10 billion each from the Road Maintenance Levy Fund and the National Government Constituency Development Fund, proposals that a majority of legislators rejected.

“My committee met with governors and found out that there are funding gaps and that we had to look for an extra Sh4 billion as conditional grants for health to counties. That is why we are willing to move the shareable revenue to counties to Sh395 billion to address this shortfall,” said Nyoro.

He added that the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council had proposed the figure of Sh391.1billion that the National Assembly adopted and which MPs only affirmed.

Makali Mulu (Kitui Central), a member of the mediation committee, said MPs had a duty to ensure counties have enough funding, adding that the Treasury should be fair to counties and allocate them funds equal to at least 15 percent of the national revenue raised.

Mulu argued that there are regional development authorities that are still funded by the national government to perform devolved roles.

“We had a good discussion with governors that there is a need to allocate resources in a vertical formula for audited and approved figures,” Mulu said.

Senator Eddy Oketch (Migori) had castigated the Commission for Revenue Allocation (CRA), saying it used the wrong base to come up with the Sh398 billion proposal and that the Senate factored in all issues to come up with Sh415.9 billion.

“Counties are currently grappling with Sh165 billion in pending bills and therefore more money should gradually be given to counties to help them stay on their feet. We should meet somewhere to resolve this matter instead of sticking to our hardline positions,” he said.

‘Devolution working’

Senator Kathuri Murungi (Meru) had defended the Sh415 billion allocation proposal, saying counties had been starved of funding for too long.

“Counties cannot be starved of funds because one governor or the other is misusing public funds,” he said.

Senator Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu) said that, having served as governor, he could attest that devolution was working compared with when the central government was responsible for all functions.

“We are not looking at additional resources but making good use of what is available with a view to redirecting functions that are in the national government and ought to be devolved, with most government agencies performing devolved function and gobbling up billions of shillings that could have been used well under counties,” he said.

The CRA had proposed Sh398 billion for counties, while the governors were holding out for Sh439.5 billion.

MPs on the mediation team included Samuel Moroto (Kapenguria), Japheth Nyakundi (Kitutu Chache North), Ali Wario (Garsen), Naisula Lesuuda (Samburu West), Mary Emase (Teso South), David Ochieng (Ugenya), Samuel Atandi (Alego Usonga), Nyoro and Mulu. The Senate team had Moses Kajwang’ (Homa Bay), Edwin Sifuna (Nairobi), Boni Khalwale (Kakamega), Fatuma Dullo (Isiolo), J Agnes Kavindu (Machakos), Mohammed Chute (Marsabit), Oketch and Mandago.

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