MPs still at a dead end in constituency cash debate

Members of the National Assembly follow proceedings during their post-election seminar at the Sarova Whitesands

Members of the National Assembly follow proceedings during their post-election seminar at the Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort and Spa in Mombasa City on February 1, 2023. WACHIRA MWANGI | Nation

Photo credit: Wachira Mwangi | Nation Media Group

There seems to be no end in sight to the quandary that members of the National Assembly have found themselves in regarding the fate of the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF).

This is after a Supreme Court judge yesterday told them unequivocally that their ruling that the fund was unconstitutional remains in force unless the MPs can find a way to entrench the kitty in the Constitution. 

Speaking at the ongoing National Assembly post-election seminar in Mombasa, Justice Mohamed Ibrahim insisted that the apex court did its part by declaring that the fund was illegal for various reasons.

“We made the judgment regarding NG-CDF and declared it a nullity. But, somehow, there’s an offshoot of that matter that is now pending in the High Court. I cannot comment much on why it happened or why there’s no finality [on the matter] and what aspects of NG-CDF case are at the High Court,” the judge said.

All eyes now are on the High Court as it determines the fate of the NG-CDF Act, 2015 amid uncertainty on whether the Supreme Court judgment will influence its verdict. In August last year, the Supreme Court declared the CDF Act 2013 unconstitutional, citing a violation of the principle of separation of powers between the three arms of government.

Justice Ibrahim said a majority of Kenyans have welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision.

“The way it was enacted was in breach of the Constitution. But all is not lost and one can go back to the drawing board and start it again. It is now upon you to do the right thing and follow the proper procedures,” he added.

Last week, the National Treasury agreed to release to MPs Sh10 billion meant for constituency development so as to end a stalemate between the executive and the legislature.

More than 300 members of the National Assembly had boycotted their induction seminar in Mombasa for three days protesting at the delayed release of the monies. However, the protests ended after Treasury sent the first tranche of Sh4 billion.

It took the intervention of National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula to unlock the stalemate after a closed-door meeting with the lawmakers. Led by National Assembly NG-CDF Committee Chairman Musa Sirma, the MPs said the stalemate had been amicably resolved. Mr Sirma said there is a clear directive from the executive on how to disburse the funds on time.

“Last week, there was a minor standoff due to delays in the disbursement. I want to assure you that NG-CDF is here to stay,” said the Speaker, adding that it is upon the MPs to “engage meaningfully and effectively” to ensure they protect the kitty in the law.

“That is because the bogeyman has always remained the legality of the funds. Make them constitutional, beyond any reasonable doubt, and the vexatious litigants will run out of business very quickly,” he said. 

President's plea

On Monday, President William Ruto urged the MPs to be understanding.

“As pertains to the NG-CDF, you do not need to convince me about the importance of decentralised funds in meeting the everyday needs of ordinary people at the grassroots. I was an MP both before and after we introduced CDF. I know the difference [that the fund brings] is like day and night. I understand the pressure that you are under regarding this matter,” he said.

The President added that Treasury had given its commitment to follow a disbursement schedule that is realistically aligned to revenue projections and actual collections.

“I, therefore, ask you to be understanding and to work within what is actually possible. I will be as candid as I can be so that we do not over-promise and under-deliver. We must take a stand and play our part in enhancing budgetary sustainability and minimising fiscal risks by aligning our demands with the best budgeting principles within the limits of budget policy,” the President added.

Mr Sirma said the Head of State had promised the parliamentarians Sh2 billion NG-CDF disbursements after every two weeks.


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