COUNTIES' CASH IMPASSE

Senators defy Uhuru, Raila in revenue formula debate

Senators decided to follow their conscience as a storm erupted in the Senate.

In Summary

• Fearing far-reaching political implications, senators decided to follow their conscience as a storm erupted in the Senate during debate on the approval of the formula.

• Senators defied days of lobbying by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga and proceeded to push for changes to the committee report.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga outside Harambee House on March 9, 2018.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga  outside Harambee House on March 9, 2018.
Image: JACK OWUOR

A majority of Senators yesterday appeared to disregard their party leaders and plotted major amendments to the counties' revenue sharing formula in a day of heightened political drama.

Fearing far-reaching political implications, senators decided to follow their conscience as a storm erupted in the Senate during debate on the approval of the formula.

Senators defied days of lobbying by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga and proceeded to push for changes to the committee report.

 

The Star established that some senators built caucuses to lobby for the far-reaching amendments to the report by the Finance Committee after failing to build consensus with Uhuru and Raila.

 

A faction coalescing around proposals by Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja turned up in the House clad in ties branded in national colours, in a solidarity show.

The 27 senators had earlier met at Panafric Hotel to scheme their strategy and to defeat a spirited effort to postpone debate on the third generation formula for a fifth time.

In his proposals, Sakaja wants no county to lose revenue. He proposed an additional Sh9.2 billion to cushion the disadvantaged counties.

This excited majority of senators who pushed for debate on the report to move further amendments to the Kibiru report to accommodate their suggestions.

The net effect was that by backing Sakaja's amendments, they would see the formula implemented starting the 2021-2022 financial year.

There were reports that the President and Raila had agreed that the committee formula be passed but the date of effect postponed to 2022-2023 financial year.

 

When they sensed defeat, the Uhuru and Raila forces pushed for adjournment of debate on the formula to build consensus on the matter.

Siaya Senator James Orengo and his Bungoma counterpart Moses Wetang'ula pleaded with senators to shelve the divisive debate until consensus had been built.

“I would think that we would have the integrity and the authority of the Senate protected and safeguarded if we do not rush to a decision when there is an opportunity to close the loopholes where consensus has not been found,” Orengo pleaded.

Orengo argued that by rushing to debate the report, senators were committing far-reaching mistakes that would haunt them for many years.

“Normally debate about resources is very divisive. I am pleading with the house that the trajectory that this issue is taking may be with us for generations to come,” he said.

However, Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo argued that a move to postpone debate amounted to running away from the problems.

He alleged that the postponement plan was a plot by some powers to influence senators to agree with their proposals against their wish.

“Since the last adjournment, or even the previous adjournments, we have not met. I sit here as a leader and I know the kind of caucusing that has been going on. They call one senator here and the other in a room,” he said.

He went on: “Senator Sakaja and I were requested to reconcile our formulas. I expected all those with amendments to sit down and agree. We have been lobbied, and lobbied and lobbied through phone calls throughout the night. We are not sleeping, messages.”

However, when the Speaker put the vote on adjournment, 40 senators voted in support of the debate on the Kirinyaga Senator Charles Kibiru-led committee report.

Only seven senators supported the adjournment motion moved by Orengo.

The Sakaja-led team won round one after they managed to put the report on the floor for debate arguing that there was no need to postpone a vote on the formula.

However, Majority whip Irungu Kang'ata moved a motion seeking to amend the report to have the application of the new formula postponed to 2022.

Kang'ata argued that the postponement would be a win-win situation for all senators.

“I had cries of my brothers from various regions. I respect my brothers at the Coast, Northeastern. I would not support any county losing money in the current financial year or the following financial year.” he said.

He went on : “I talked with my colleagues to see the remedy that we can put in place to ensure they do not lose money. I decided to come up with this motion to now further amend this so that they extend the effective date to 2022-2023,” Kang'ata said.

However, senators who were pushing for the Sakaja formula amendments opposed the move. Nyamira Senator Okong'o Omogeni said the postponement was unnecessary.

“We must move together if we care about this country. It should please no Senator to take money from Nyamira and give it to another county,” he said.

He added: “That does not please our principals Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga. What this postponement on effect date means is that yes we will allow you to smile for two years and then start mourning for many years. I say no.”

Raila on Monday urged senators to adopt the report by the Commission for Revenue Allocation (CRA) on the sharing of money from the national government to counties in order to end the current stalemate.

In a statement, Raila said the standoff is causing mistrust among Kenyans.

It has also taken a dangerous ethnic undertone instead of being a level-headed debate on the nation's development trajectory,” Raila said.

 

(edited by o. owino)