Governors threaten to shut county services yet again

Governor Wycliffe Oparanya

Council of Governors Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya at a past event.
 

Photo credit: Isaac Wale I Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • In September last year, the governors had partly shut down county services and sent home staff over the revenue sharing stalemate.
  • The lack of funds also means that counties are struggling to pay for drugs, water, electricity, and run key development projects.

Starved of funds, unable to pay suppliers and facing constant strike threats from employees whose dues have not been paid for months, governors have now threatened yet another shutdown of the 47 counties.

In a letter to Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani, Council of Governors Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya said the funds should be released as soon as possible.

Mr Oparanya said counties had not received their October, November, December and January monthly disbursements amounting to Sh94.7 billion.

Governors are already battling with an ongoing nurses’ strike, with the county chiefs having rejected a return-to-work formula that the national government signed with doctors, citing empty coffers even as they claim they were not involved.

“Please note that if the disbursement is not made forthwith, the county governments will have no other option other than seek legal redress while closing down to minimise further damage and suffering of employees,” Mr Oparanya said in the letter dated January 11.

In September last year, the governors had partly shut down county services and sent home staff over the revenue sharing stalemate.

Mr Oparanya said in the letter that Treasury has failed in its statutory role of disbursing the monthly allocations to counties “despite stringent timelines set out in law.” 

The delay, Mr Oparanya said, had led to stalled projects because contractors have not been paid. Further, the development budget has not been implemented while statutory deductions go unremitted.

The lack of funds also means that counties are struggling to pay for drugs, water, electricity, and run key development projects as set out in their budgets.

“The delay has negatively affected the lives of county government civil servants and service delivery. This is despite the fact that the civil servants and public officers at national government continue to receive their salaries in good time,” Mr Oparanya said. 

The delayed release of funds despite the Senate approval of a disbursement schedule, which details how much should go to each of the 47 counties per month,has recently attracted the ire of the Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o.

"It is recommended that the National Treasury should disburse funds to the counties on a timely basis to ensure that budget implementation is not adversely affected," Dr Nyakang'o said in her review of the budget implementation last year.

Cash crisis

According to Mr Oparanya, further delay in the disbursements of the funds will cripple the counties, which are already struggling with agitated workers, one strike after another.

“The delayed disbursement has hindered service delivery especially during the wake of Covid-19 pandemic when the counties are expected to be at the frontline in offering health services,” Mr Oparanya said.

He went on: “County government civil servants have not been paid for three months while national government’s have been paid all their dues and statutory deductions made.”

Last September, the governors had sent home non-essential workers for two weeks.

They were then complaining of failure to disburse funds for the months of July, August, and September. Their staff had gone without salaries for three months.

Counties were facing the cash crisis after senators failed to strike a deal on the formula for sharing Sh316.5 billion among the 47 devolved units.

President Uhuru Kenyatta intervened, promising an additional allocation of Sh53 billion to counties in the next financial year to strengthen devolution.

The current delay and threats of shutdown due to lack of funds flies in the face of a promise in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which proposes the increase of county cash allocations from 15 to 35 per cent of national revenue.

And to avoid delays in the release of shareable revenue, the BBI has proposed that audited accounts by the Auditor General be used as the basis for the determination of the allocations to the devolved units.

The National Assembly is currently auditing the 2017/18 accounts, with those of 2016/17, which they have approved, being the basis for the share of revenue between the two levels of government.

The BBI team has also proposed that governors have a say in the Commission on Revenue Allocation, the constitutional commission tasked with determining revenues going to the different counties.

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