Senators have differed over the proposed Sh385 billion allocation to counties as equitable share of revenue for the next financial year, as debate on the Division of Revenue Bill 2023 begins.
Opposition MPs are seeking additional funds while their Kenya Kwanza counterparts support the figure proposed by the Exchequer, which is an increase of Sh15 billion from the current Sh370 billion.
The development comes at a time when there are three competing proposals on how much counties should get.
While the National Treasury is proposing Sh385 billion, the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) put the figure at Sh407 billion and the Council of Governors is holding out for Sh425 billion as allocation for the financial year ending June 2024.
Senate Deputy Minority Leader Enock Wambua opposed the Bill, tabled by Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot, saying it is not the business of the national executive to determine how much money goes to the two levels of government.
The Kitui senator said it is the duty of Parliament, as outlined under Article 218 of the Constitution, to determine the sharing of revenue between the two levels of government.
“I want to go on record as opposing the Bill as received from the National Assembly. I see an attempt to claw back the gains of devolution in this Bill,” said Mr Wambua.
“Devolution will stand or collapse on the floor of this House. An opportunity has been given to us to protect devolution by making sure that the money we allocate to counties can take care of the devolved units so that they are not starved of resources,” he added.
Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi said the national government is violating the Constitution which dictates that for every shilling raised in revenue, 15 per cent of it should go to the counties.
However, he pointed out, this is not happening, with the national government getting 84 per cent and not the envisioned 75 per cent.
“I want to declare that I will not support the Sh385 billion but a figure agreeable to the Council of Governors and CRA. Our counties need money and we are here to protect the interests of our counties,” said Mr Osotsi.
Mombasa Senator Mohamed Faki said the Sh15 billion increase is a drop in the ocean for counties if inflation and the high cost of living indices are taken into account.
“Money raised by the government must be distributed in a way that recognises that both levels of government provide important services to the people. I will not, therefore, support the Bill as presented,” he said.
However, Kenya Kwanza senators supported the Bill, with Tana River Senator Danson Mungatana warning their counterparts not to play politics with the economy.
The lawmaker said most of the country’s revenue goes towards servicing public debt and that is why the national government took the lion’s share.
“I want to vote with those who say we go with Sh385 billion. If the cake is small and we cannot increase it, then we must learn to live within our means,” he said.
Marsabit Governor Mohamed Chute said going by President William Ruto’s austerity measures, including the slashing of Sh300 billion from the budget, then counties should get Sh358 billion and not Sh385 billion.
“We need to live within our means. Let us eat ugali and sukuma wiki and live instead of eating rice and cakes and have problems in the future,” he said.
Senate Majority Whip Boni Khalwale added: “Sh385 is not small money or pocket change. We just need to step up our oversight role to ensure that not less than 30 per cent of the money is seen to bring development in our counties.”