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STARVING COUNTIES

State accused of starving counties of funds

MPs and senators failed to agree on division of revenue proposals.

In Summary

•The county governments were created fully functional with county governors as the heads

•However on Tuesday MPs and senators failed to agree on division of revenue proposals, with less than a month to the next financial year

Minors play in County council estate in Naivasha where Nakuru County government is seeking millions of shillings from the tenants over accrued rent arrears
Minors play in County council estate in Naivasha where Nakuru County government is seeking millions of shillings from the tenants over accrued rent arrears
Image: GEORGE MURAGE

The National government's appetite for cash has  seen it take money belonging to county governments posing threat to devolution, a governance form was told yesterday.

This is done through an ad hoc use of the term ‘National Interest’ by the national government when introducing manifesto promises such as the Big Four agenda and undertaking county development projects.

Panelists at a public forum on division of revenue to Counties by the National Government hosted by The Institute For Social Accountability (TISA) all shared the same sentiment.

“Revenue raised nationally is meant for redistribution, it does not belong to national government,” Constitutional Lawyer Mutakha Kangu said. “The state is busy creating authorities which are taking money from the table- that is supposed to be shared among counties.”

With the promulgation of the constitution 2010, Kenyans ushered in a new form of governance where the central government had to cede some of its powers to the 47 new units of governance.

The county governments were created fully functional with county governors as the heads.

However on Tuesday MPs and senators failed to agree on division of revenue proposals, with less than a month to the next financial year.

If not passed by Thursday, the Division of Revenue Bill, 2019 which spells out the sharing of revenue between the national and county governments for the 2019-20 financial year, would require a fresh budget to be drawn up.

Speaking at the forum, Katiba Institute’s Christine Nkonge said the parliament was deviating county budget allocations.

After the 2013 general election, the counties became functional with the national government having ceded most of its functions from healthcare, early childhood education, maintenance of feeder roads, and collection of local revenue.

 

According to the Commission on Revenue Allocation’s director of research and policy Lineth Oyugi the lack of a clear separation of power between the national and county governments has had a negative impact on the realisation of devolution.

“Some of the shared functions such as electricity and gas disbursement and energy regulation are not funded at the county level,” she said. “Several external donors are still funding the national government for county functions.”

She added that some of the functions which were initially devolved have since been partially or fully retained as national government functions.

Kangu questioned why county allocations were being based on outdated audit accounts and did not factor in inflation, the country’s economic growth and revenue growth.

He added that shared revenue should include borrowed funds and grants given by international donors rather than just revenue collected.

Data by the International Budget Partnership shows while national ordinary revenue has grown from 13 per cent in the 2015/16 financial year to 21 per cent in the current fiscal year, the approved allocation in the division of revenue has dipped from 15 per cent to one per cent over the review period.

Nkonge said the National Treasury should be a shared institution as it currently ignores all stakeholder recommendations.

“It ignores the Senate which is charged with the protection of county interest and the intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council (IBEC) which is the statutory body for creating political discourse and consensus on revenue sharing,” she said.