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Thursday, 17 September 2020

No services in counties as shutdown begins Thursday


 Hard times await Kenyans as governors make real their threat to shut down operations in counties starting Thursday over revenue sharing stand-off in the Senate.

This even as the Council of Governors sued the Senate seeking the immediate release of 50 per cent of Sh4.1 billion to Laikipia county and all other devolved units.

In the suit papers filed under a certificate of urgency, the CoG and Laikipia county have sued the Attorney-General, the Speaker of the Senate, the Senate, the Controller of Budget, the Treasury and National Treasury Cabinet Secretary.

The Senate has been accused of failing in its constitutional duty, resulting in county operations grinding to a halt.

CoG chairman Wycliffe Oparanya said in a statement on Wednesday  the shutdown had been occasioned by lack of resources after senators failed to agree on the revenue sharing formula.

“Since the Senate has not been able to unlock the stalemate on the flow of funds, it is not clear when this impasse will be resolved,” Oparanya said.

He said county health facilities will not permit new in-patient admissions and will only provide minimal outpatient services. 

All non-essential services have been suspended and county employees advised to proceed on leave for two weeks.

“In the meantime, the council will continue to push for speedy release of county funds,” the Kakamega governor maintained.

He said devolved units are suffering and the only way to end their pain is for the National Treasury to release the funds.

Senate Majority Chief Whip Irungu Kang'ata faulted the move by governors to shut down operations. “It is unfortunate that governors have taken this angle. We are almost completing this issue,” he told the Star.

Kang'ata asked why the CoG did not raise the issue during a meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Senate leadership on Tuesday.

“Yesterday [Tuesday], we met at State House and the Council of Governors chair was present,” he said.

Other senators also launched a scathing attack on Oparanya for his county shutdown statement.

The lawmakers, while speaking on the floor of the House, termed Oparanya 'a traitor who is leading a club of boys hell-bent on attacking a House that defends devolution'.

Bungoma's Moses Wetang'ula accused Oparanya of abusing his authority. “The Council of Governors is not the employer of any employees of counties. Employers are from different County Public Service Boards. Governors cannot even send a sweeper on compulsory leave,” he said.

Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua said Oparanya was not new to reckless statements.

Narok Senator Ledama Olekina termed the CoG as “a club of boys and some busybodies.”

“If you make somebody a prefect, they even forget they were students,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Senate for the 10th time failed to reach a consensus on the best formula to share revenue among counties.

This is despite President Kenyatta intervening and promising to give counties Sh50 billion more in the next financial year to cushion devolved units that were losing money.

Uhuru induced a section of aggrieved senators who had vehemently opposed the controversial formula, causing a stand-off and  suffering in the counties.

"We have agreed to take the offer. But we have tasked the 12-member committee that has been working on this to come up with the best formula taking into account the Sh50 billion," Laikipia Senator John Kinyua said.

Treasury CS Ukur Yatani has insisted he cannot release any money because his hands are tied.

“The advisory we received from the Attorney General was that the National Treasury cannot disburse funds to counties on basis of division of revenue alone. There has to be some agreement at the Senate,” he explained.

Last week on Tuesday, Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakango said her office was not in a position to authorise the release of money to counties as the funds had not been transferred from the Consolidated Fund to the County Revenue Fund.

“When the CoB approves withdrawals, it means funds have been transferred from the Consolidated Fund to the County Revenue Fund. I can only come in after the National Treasury has done their part,” Nyakango said.

This was in response to Kang'ata who had cited Regulation 134 of the Public Finance Management Act, which mandates the CoB to authorise the release of the funds in the event of delays in passing the County Allocation of Revenue Act (CARA).

The PFM Act says if Parliament has not approved the County Allocation of Revenue Bill by the beginning of the financial year, the CoB may authorise withdrawals of up to 50 per cent from the Consolidated Fund based on the last CARA.

Nyakango explained that the Treasury must first release funds from the Consolidated Fund to the County Revenue Fund, and then counties would make requisition to her office to release the money to their operational accounts.

“This has not happened. We are jumping one step and saying the next step can take place.

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