Counties at risk of cash crunch after Senate rejects Bill

Counties are at risk of a cash crunch after this year’s General Election as the Senate rejected the second Division of Revenue Bill, 2017 on Tuesday.

The senators accused the National Assembly of using the constraints of time to blackmail them into approving little funds to the devolved units.

On an afternoon characterised by unity often seen during the debate on this Bill, senators admonished MPs and vowed not to cede ground until their proposal is factored into the Bill.

They set the irreducible minimum for the passage of the Bill as allocation of the initial Sh299 billion proposed by the National Treasury as the funds would plug holes in the payment of doctors and nurses and other contingencies.

Moving the Bill introduced in the House on Friday, Leader of Majority Kithure Kindiki denounced the manner in which MPs have handled the Bill.

“Republishing the Bill with the same figures that had been rejected by the Mediation Committee was contemptuous and an abuse of the Parliamentary process,” said Professor Kindiki as he asked the House to arise and reject the Bill until a consensus was reached.

The National Assembly has allocated Sh291 billion to the counties to the chagrin of the Senate, which considers revenue allocation to the devolved units its exclusive domain.

The Senate had changed the figure to Sh314 billion but that was rejected by MPs, triggering the stalemate that has seen the conflict go unresolved.

Senators insisted that they must have their way in determining what goes to the counties. They singled out Mbeere South MP Mutava Musyimi, the Budget and Appropriations Committee chairman, as having a patronising attitude towards the Senate.

“I have consulted the top echelons of my Jubilee Party and they insist that it is in the interest of the party to have a quick resolution to this matter through the spirit of give and take,” said Prof Kindiki.

Leader of Minority Moses Wetang’ula, seconding the Bill, insisted that it be rejected. He allayed fears that counties could face a cash crisis, noting that there were other exigencies that could see the devolved units through.

“We must stand up and be counted or we shall go down in ignominy as people who made this Senate weak, which will undermine our role as custodians of the counties,” said Mr Wetang’ula.

Mandera Senator Billow Kerrow noted that the Finance Committee, which he chairs, was ready for another round of mediation talks as the allocation would undermine the Senate.

“We need to reject this Bill to insulate this House from such blackmail,” said Mr Kerrow.

Kisumu Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o also faulted Rev Musyimi, saying his failure to adopt a give-and-take spirit was the cause of the stalemate.

“We insist on certain figures not to defy the National Assembly but, as senators, we best know where the shoe pinches,” said Prof Nyong’o while pointing out that allocation to counties had increased because of consultations.

Nyeri Senator Mutahi Kagwe said Rev Musyimi’s “stubborn and condescending attitude” was born of the superiority complex MPs had demonstrated over the past four years.

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