Solve funds crisis lest the counties crumble

The threat by the Council of Governors (CoG) to shut down the 47 counties, if the national government does not release funds to them, is the making of a major disaster.

The county chiefs have issued a 14-day notice, demanding the disbursement of a Sh94.35 billion allocation that has been outstanding for several months.

The counties are owed Sh31.45 billion for February, Sh29.6 billion for March and Sh33.3 billion for April and have been left struggling to pay salaries and bills and meet other financial commitments. Health workers in 12 counties have downed tools demanding their salaries. 

The three-month delay is unprecedented in the 10-year history of devolution. Besides, it is a violation of the constitutional requirement of timely disbursement of the equitable share of financial allocations to the devolved units.

The National Treasury says it is unable to disburse the financial allocations due to a shortfall in revenue collection. But this explanation is disputed by critics, who say Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has met its targets and point out that, when he scrapped food and fuel levies upon coming into office last September, President William Ruto declared that billions of shillings would be saved. They wonder where that money is.

CoG chairperson Anne Waiguru, the Kirinyaga governor, has asked National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung’u to immediately release the money lest the county chiefs stop operations, thus worsening the crisis the government faces.

This is a terrible development that poses a grave threat to devolution, which has made a positive contribution to development countrywide in the past 10 years.

Of course, the counties have their own shortcomings, including corruption and mismanagement, which they must tackle. While they are entitled to financial allocations from the National Treasury, most of them have not done enough to develop other sources of income. As a result, they solely rely on the Exchequer.

There is a need for serious talks between the counties and the national government to avert the looming catastrophe.