Counties come to halt as governors declare shut down over funds

Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya.


 

Photo credit: Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Governors sent home the bulk of employees who have gone without salaries for three months. Counties have not been given their July, August and September share of national revenue.
  • The governors, however, retained “minimal staff” at hospitals, who will review emergency cases. The workers will direct patients to private hospitals if admission if needed.

A “casual” letter by the Senate on ending the revenue sharing stalemate coupled with House leaders snubbing crucial talks made governors to order a shutdown of cash-strapped counties.

With the bulk of the workforce sent home for two weeks, services in counties will grind to a halt.

This includes hospitals which have few workers, though outpatient services will be offered.

The Council of Governors was also incensed when the leadership of the Senate and the National Assembly skipped a meeting called by the National Treasury yesterday to find ways of giving counties money as the debate on the revenue sharing continues.

Governors sent home the bulk of employees who have gone without salaries for three months. Counties have not been given their July, August and September share of national revenue.

The governors, however, retained “minimal staff” at hospitals, who will review emergency cases. The workers will direct patients to private hospitals if admission if needed.

Enforcement officers and employees who collect revenue have also been retained.

“Non-essential services are suspended and county employees are advised to proceed on a two-week leave,” council chairman Wycliffe Oparanya said in his communication to governors in a letter copied to county secretaries and executives.

Mr Oparanya was furious at the Senate “for taking us for a ride”.

He said lawmakers do not seem to have plans to end the stalemate soon.

“At the State House meeting on Tuesday, we agreed that the Senate would write to the Council of Governors indicating how much longer it expects to take to resolve this matter. This morning, the Senate wrote us a very casual letter telling us to give it more time. What does that mean? How much time do senators need?” Mr Oparanya asked.

The State House talks also resolved to have another meeting yesterday that would include the council, Attorney General Kihara Kariuki, Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, his Senate counterpart Ken Lusaka, Senate Majority Leader Samuel Poghisio and his minority counterpart James Orengo.

“The AG sent a junior officer and the Finance Committee chairman was the only one who came from the Senate. The National Assembly was not represented,” Mr Oparanya told the Nation.

“The senators are not picking calls. We have decided to shut counties down because there is no other choice.”

Funding row

Contacted, Mr Lusaka denied knowledge of Wednesday’s meeting.

“I am just reading from the media but no one told me,” the Speaker said.

He denied claims by the governors council on the Senate not providing a time-frame for the resolution on the funding row.

The House, Mr Lusaka said, delivered a letter of commitment on the issue to the council.

“Mr Orengo has sent a letter of commitment, saying the matter will be resolved by Tuesday,” Mr Lusaka said.

Mr Oparanya said governors are ready to give the Senate a week to end the standoff “but lack of a substantive undertaking on the time-frame by the House makes that option untenable”.

Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua said the county government would shut operations.

“It is a tragedy when political interests and legal justifications are used to deny Kenyans their rights under devolution. The Machakos county government is not in a position to pay salaries,” Dr Mutua said.

“The slowdown of the economy due to the Covid-19 pandemic has meant that revenue from county sources has been heavily affected.”

Lawmakers accused Mr Oparanya of disrespecting the Senate, saying the decision to shut “is an abuse of authority”.

Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula said the decision to scale down health services would make millions suffer.

[email protected], [email protected]