Urgently make Equalisation Fund operational for fairness in nation

Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) chairperson Jane Kiringai and officials present a report on the second policy to President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi, in 2018.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The amount to be put into the fund annually was set at one half per cent of all revenue collected by the national government.
  • The initial CRA First Policy Period covered 2011/12 to 2014/15 financial years and identified 14 counties as beneficiaries.

The Bomas Constitutional Conference process wanted to ensure that all Kenyans felt that there was equity and inclusivity. That is how the idea of an Equalisation Fund (EF) came into being.

Many parts of the country had been marginalised for one reason or another. Being an affirmative action, EF was to last for 20 years with an option for extension if necessary. We hoped that it would bring faster development to these parts of the country for the benefit of all Kenyans.

The current Constitution created the EF under its Section 204. Like several other important issues, we left it for a future Parliament to come up with an appropriate law within a specified timeline. The Constitution identified the water, roads, electricity and health sectors as the areas to be addressed. The Commission for Revenue Allocation (CRA) was given the responsibility of determining which regions were marginalised.

The amount to be put into the fund annually was set at one half per cent of all revenue collected by the national government. This amount was to be based on the latest available audited accounts of total revenue collected as approved by the National Assembly.

Traditional lifestyles

The initial CRA First Policy Period covered 2011/12 to 2014/15 financial years and identified 14 counties as beneficiaries. The Second Policy Period, based on previous experience, made some implementation changes.

For example, the identification of projects was found to be too slow as it was done by Nairobi-based officials; disbursement of funds was also very slow; and there were many marginalised areas even within the so-called “developed” counties that required attention as per policy.

For these reasons, among others, the CRA moved the base of allocations from the 14 counties to the 1,424 least-developed sub-locations out of 7,131 in 114 constituencies.

The CRA also found out that there are several communities that still led traditional lifestyles and, therefore, remained marginalised. The main ones that were included under the new policy were Elmolo, Makonde, Waata and Dorobo-Saleita.

We should thank Tiaty MP Kassait Kamket and his team for preparing and having the EF law passed by the National Assembly last year. The law created an EF Board with a chairman who must come from the marginalised areas and has one six-year term. It will have four independent board members, in addition, to the principal secretaries from the appropriate ministries. This is besides an EF Advisory Board that was gazetted in 2015.

Bottom-up structure

The law also created Ward Committees that would ensure a bottom-up structure — unlike during the first period. This structure borrowed heavily from programmes such as the NG-CDF, LATF and ASAL.

The Ward Committees, which will identify projects, will include local stakeholders and national and county government representatives. Projects will be presented for approval to the board, who will make quarterly reports to the National Assembly. This will reduce the bureaucracy and wastage of the past.

Sadly, this EF law is yet to be operationalised and is still being managed by an advisory board comprising very busy technocrats in Nairobi. This leads to delays and we might miss the implementation deadline.

Technically, the EF should have started receiving funds from the day the Constitution came into being in 2010. It has substantial amounts of money that need to be disbursed. The fund should have been created over 10 years ago as an independent institution. The implementation through the ministries is not efficient and could complicate the audit of funds. Legal issues could also arise.

I am disappointed that such an important law took up to last year before being passed and, even then, for unknown reasons, is stuck.

The EF should not go the route of the money that senators spent weeks haggling over recently. Proper and speedy utilisation of the funds should lead to the creation of many jobs for youth. As I have argued previously, bringing on board the marginalised communities can only be good in every respect for our nation in the long term.

joenyagah@gmail.com.