BATTLE OF WITS

County funding battles split Uhuruto allies

Senators say they are moving to the Supreme Court to have laws nullified

In Summary

• MPs allocated Sh310 billion to counties, but the Senate increased this to Sh335 billion. 

• Senators complain they were not involved in recently passed Health law. 

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale
National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale
Image: FILE

The supremacy battle pitting the National Assembly and the Senate has split top Jubilee leaders and threatens to deepen the cracks in the ruling party. 

On Wednesday, National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale engaged his Senate counterpart Kipchumba Murkomen in a nasty spat exposing the deep fissures in the party.

It was the first time that the two confronted each other.

 

At the heart of the confrontation is a standoff on how much money should be sent to county governments in the next financial year and how bills should be handled.

The National Assembly has opposed a Senate proposal for additional Sh25 billion allocation to the counties. The stalemate may soon trigger a financial crisis in the devolved units.

MPs had approved Sh310 billion for the devolved units but senators, whose mandate is to protect the interest of counties, gave them Sh335 billion.

The bicameral parliament has now formed an eight-man mediation committee to unlock the stalemate but both sides have maintained their hard-line positions.

“We would rather have a government shutdown than send money to the counties which will not be enough for them,” vowed Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina who sits in the team.

Other senators in the committee are Mohamed Mahamud (Mandera), Mutula Kilonzo (Makueni) and Susan Kihika (Nakuru).

The National Assembly team is led by Duale, Minority leader John Mbadi, MPs Kimani Ichung'wa (Kikuyu) and Cecily Mbarire (nominated).

 

The two sides have vowed not to cede ground on the question of county funds.

Ironically, the two teams are both dominated by close allies of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.

On May 8, the National Assembly rejected the Division of Revenue Bill as amended by the Senate, denying the additional billions to counties.

MPs led by Ichung’wa, who chairs the Budget committee, said the adjustment would alter the country’s fiscal framework as defined by the National Treasury.

Yesterday, Murkomen accused the leadership of the National Assembly of passing the Health Bill and sending it to the President for assent without the input of the Senate.

Murkomen and Duale engaged each other in an endless social media spat.

Duale claims Murkomen is "attempting to defy President Uhuru Kenyatta."

"What Murkomen is doing amounts to sabotage. He [Murkomen] is attempting to defy the President," Duale told the Star.

However, Murkomen insists Health is a devolved function and all legislation regarding it must go to the Senate.

Murkomen, in his tweets, said he had even protested to Duale and Solicitor General Ken Ogeto at State House for presenting the Health laws to the President for his signature without due procedure.

"I told them they had the duty to give proper counsel to His Excellency," Murkomen said.

Senators claim that over 90 per cent of legislation passed by the National Assembly is not passed procedurally, hence unconstitutional. 

They have now tasked its Legal Affairs Committee to create an inventory of the “illegal” laws so that they are declared null in court.

Senate Minority leader James Orengo said they are returning to the Supreme Court to get an advisory on the standoff over the bills.

“We must take the bull by the horns and go to the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion. I urge every lawyer in this House that we go and prosecute this matter,” Orengo said.

The National Assembly has maintained it has exclusive say on all money bills as well as matters concerning national government functions.

But senators say they have a say on cash being disbursed to counties on the grounds that they oversee devolution.

In what is turning into a game of musical chairs, Murkomen asked Kenyans to ignore the statutes defined in the amended health laws, adding that the same should be declared null.

Also causing division is the claim by MPs that senators have no powers to summon Cabinet secretaries unless the matters touch county governments.

Section 125 of the Constitution gives the Senate powers to summon witnesses and compel such persons to produce documents on a subject matter.

Murkomen castigated his National Assembly colleagues for attempting to make the Senate a lower House.

“It is impossible for any law concerning health to be passed in this country without the input of the Senate,” the senator said.

Mutula said, “The Senate is under attack. We must stand for something, otherwise, there will be no business of us being here.”

In seeking for more cash, lawmakers argued that more functions such as libraries and road construction have been devolved and will require more resources.

(Edited by R.Wamochie)