MPs reject Yatani’s bid to deny 15 counties funds

Committee wants Treasury to give counties 60 days to pay, citing detrimental effects

In Summary

• Panel has proposed to the Treasury to allow counties to compile a list of verified pending bills and submit to it for payments at the source. 

• This followed a notice Yatani issued to the 15 counties on November 19 giving them till December 1 to clear the bills, failure which funds would be locked. 

Acting Treasury CS Ukur Yatani
COULD FRUSTRATE COUNTIES: Acting Treasury CS Ukur Yatani

Parliament is set to reject acting Treasury CS Ukur Yatani’s bid to deny funds to at least 15 counties for failing to clear their pending bills as directed by the President.

The National Assembly Budget and Appropriations committee on Sunday disclosed that it has declined the CS’s request to withhold the funds.

Instead, the committee has recommended that the 15 counties be given a 60-day window to clear the bills. 

Further, the panel has proposed the Treasury allow the counties to compile a list of verified pending bills and submit to it for payments at the source.

"We have seen that withholding the funds will be detrimental to the counties. We feel that they should be given time to pay or they send the verified list so that Treasury can deduct their money at the source and pay," committee member Rongo MP Paul Abuor said.

The Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa-led committee was tasked with examining the grounds cited by the Treasury for withholding the funds. 

Likewise, senators have indicated they will turn down Yatani’s intention.  Speaking in the chamber last week, the lawmakers said the Treasury’s bid will devastate and frustrate the devolved units. 

“It looks trendy and fancy when some bureaucrats invoke certain sections of the law, but the consequences are devastating. Those provisions are there for extreme circumstances,” Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki said.

Isiolo Senator and Deputy Majority leader Fatuma Dullo said, “A better strategy should be drawn up because you cannot stop the whole budgetary allocation to the counties.”

Ichung’wa is expected to table the committee’s report in the chamber this week, recommending rejection of the request. The corresponding committee in the Senate will also table its report. 

Yatani had last week written to the two speakers of Parliament — Justin Muturi (National Assembly) and Kenneth Lusaka (Senate) — seeking approval to stop transfers of the equitable share of revenue to the counties for failing to abide by President Uhuru Kenyatta's directive.

This followed a notice he issued to the 15 counties on November 19 giving them up to December 1 to clear the bills, otherwise, the funds would be locked.

Among the counties targeted for non-cleaeance are Migori (Sh970 million), Tharaka Nithi (Sh921 billion), Bomet (Sh893 million), Kirinyaga (Sh1.05 billion), Nandi (Sh1.12 billion), Mombasa (Sh4.07 billion), Kiambu (Sh1.56 billion), Garissa (Sh1.57 billion) and Baringo (Sh35 million).

Others are Narok Sh1.8 billion, Machakos (Sh1.1 billion), Nairobi (Sh21 billion), Vihiga (Sh1.8 billion), Isiolo (Sh1.09 billion) and Tana River (Sh1.09 billion). 

The CS cited the counties for failing to heed the resolutions of the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council (IBEC) chaired by Deputy President William Ruto.

The IBEC resolved that county governments would pay eligible pending bills on a priority basis as a first charge on the County Revenue Fund by the end of 2019-20. Counties owed their suppliers Sh64.2 billion as of October 28. 

The Public Finance Management Act gives the CS the authority to stop the transfer of funds to state organs or any other entity.

However, the same shall be approved by Parliament [Senate and National Assembly] within 30 days of the Treasury’s decision to withhold the funds.

The Article also requires the Controller of Budget to investigate and submit a report to Parliament within 14 days of the intention to stop the transfer. As such, the CoB has until tomorrow to submit the report. 

Under the law, the CS cannot also stop the transfer of more than 50 per cent of funds due to a country government. 

Edited by R.Wamochie