MPs in last ditch attempt to end county cash impasse

Senators want the increment to be based on economic growth and increased revenue projections

In Summary

• The crucial bill will be subject of talks between the Senate and National Assembly.

• County governments may miss out on Exchequer transfers unless Parliament enacts the legislation.

Members of the National Assembly and Senators in the chambers
Members of the National Assembly and Senators in the chambers

MPs will today make a last-ditch bid to resolve a stalemate on a key bill authorising the release of cash to counties.

The stalemate over the Division of Revenue Bill, 2019 remains unsolved, even as the deadline for its passage by the National Assembly expires today.

The concern is that county governments may miss out on transfers from the Exchequer unless Parliament enacts the legislation.

The senators want Sh327 billion but MPs insist that Sh316 billion is adequate, occasioning a row over Sh11 billion. The senators believe the money is available.

As the mediation team meets today in an attempt to strike a compromise, the worry is that the hard stances remain.

A lawmaker at the mediation committee intimated to the Star in confidence that they expect the talks to end well to avert a paralysis in government operations.

In the event the stalemate persists, counties and other state departments whose allocations are based on the DoRB will be adversely affected.

“We may not get what all of us want but definitely, we will get to a point where this matter will rest much as the reallocations being suggested are coming late,” a member of the team said.

A stormy session on Tuesday, which manifested the supremacy wars between the two Houses of Parliament, ended without any green light on the crucial Bill.

Senators want the increment to be based on economic growth and increased revenue projections, which the Sh335 billion was based on.

However, their National Assembly holds that the adjustment will only be made after factoring in the cost of inflation, baseline allocations, and costing of functions.

The impasse arose after the Senate amended the DoRB, increasing the revenue allocation to the counties by Sh25 billion.

This was evident in the House yesterday as MPs held that the Constitution considers it the Upper House with a say on the budget process.

But members said the situation must be resolved since it has sparked uncertainty in the counties, amid warnings the deadlock may frustrate the adoption of the 2019-20 estimates.

“We know from the mediation committee that the talks collapsed. Let the members stop looking at the process without looking at it as a competition,” Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa said.

“As we go on with the mediation, we must think about what we will be protecting. Probably the mediation should be between senators and the Executive. The budget is not a property of the National Assembly,” Luanda MP Chris Omulele said.

The stalemate, as well as low prospects and the deficit posed by the country’s huge foreign debt,  are likely to cloud the usually colourful budget reading day.

Treasury CS Henry Rotich addresses the House this afternoon, where he will chart the country’s path towards funding the Sh3.02 trillion budget.

The CS is facing a House that feels he has "domineered" the budget-making process, denying Parliament its powers over the same.

During the debate on the estimates, the lawmakers accused the National Treasury of sabotaging the budget.

For instance, members lamented that they have received barely Sh59 million of the Sh109 million allocated for CDF.

“The budget we pass is a mere recommendation and the Executive decides what the actual amounts should be, which should not be the case. The Treasury is also assuming the powers of Parliament in the budget-making process by determining cuts and increments at whims,” Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo said.

Wamalwa echoed the sentiments, saying the budget cycle has taken a bottom-up approach as the proposed final estimates have not reflected most of the engagements between MPs and state departments.

“We need to call a spade a spade. Parliament is no longer a budget-making House. There is a lot of influence by the Treasury in the process. If at all the Executive is going to influence this process, then we need to have a referendum so that we assume a parliamentary system,” the lawmaker said.

Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali said the budget has not dealt with funding needs for key pillars of the Big Four agenda.

“This has not been clearly addressed. There is no proper allocation for manufacturing and housing yet there is a major policy shift affecting the sectors,” the Majority Whip said, calling for more public participation.