Senate approves Sh385 billion for counties in next budget cycle


Opposition lawmakers wanted at least Sh407 billion.

Photo credit: File

Senators allied to the Kenya Kwanza administration on Thursday, April 20 voted to shoot down an amendment to grant counties Sh407 billion ad instead struck with the Sh385.4 billion proposal by the National Treasury, despite protests from the Opposition.

This means that county governments will receive Sh15 billion more as equitable share in the next financial year.

The ruling coalition senators opposed the amendment by the Finance Committee to give counties Sh37 billion more in the financial year ending June 2024 up from the current Sh370 billion.

22 senators allied to President William Ruto voted to shoot down the amendment against nine from Raila Odinga-led Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition.

The committee had proposed an amendment to the Division of Revenue Bill, 2023 from the National Assembly that contained Sh385 billion and changed the schedule to Sh407 billion as had been proposed by the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA).

When the voting on the bill arrived, 33 senators, including some from Azimio, voted to approve the proposal putting to an end any hopes of revising the amount to Sh407 billion that was being supported by Azimio senators.

Outwitted, the Opposition senators conducted a presser castigating their Kenya Kwanza counterparts of denying counties funds by going against CRA’s recommendation.

They instead hailed the nine Azimio senators – Edwin Sifuna, Godfrey Osostsi, Moses Kajwang’, Johnes Mwaruma, Oburu Odinga, Enock Wambua, Ledama Olekina, Eddy Oketch and Richard Onyonka – for standing for devolution by pushing for more funds.

Mr Wambua termed the nine senators as gallant leaders who stood up for devolution and did not allow themselves to be intimidated by the conspiracy in the Kenya Kwanza administration to deny counties money.

“Today indeed is a very dark day as far as devolution in this country is concerned. We have seen a situation on the floor of the Senate where Kenya Kwanza senators have conspired to deny funds to counties,” said the Senate Deputy Minority Leader.

“Instead of defending counties, the 22 senators have decided to defend the position of Kenya Kwanza administration of retaining money in the national government,” added Mr Olekina.

Senator Sifuna went on: “It saddens me that senators who swore to defend their counties have today turned into betrayers of their counties.”

The National Treasury has proposed an allocation of Sh385.4 billion to the counties, an increase of Sh15.4 billion from the current financial year’s allocation of Sh370 billion.

The National Assembly had agreed with the Treasury and approved the proposal as captured in the Division of Revenue Bill, 2023.

Governors had demanded Sh425 billion a figure that the national government said was unrealistic in light of financial constraints facing the government.

However, Kenya Kwanza senators argued it would be unrealistic to allocate counties the amount amid the acute cash flow challenges at the exchequer.

“Where do you expect money to come from? We had to make a difficult decision of beginning to teach Kenyans to live within our means and know that there is no other source other than being fiscally responsible,” said Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot.

Earlier in the day, Council of Governors chairperson Ann Waiguru had a rough time appearing before the Senate County Public Accounts Committee with senators after revealing that governors were content receiving fewer funds than the Sh425 billion they wanted.

The committee members took issue with her submission that they had agreed to settle for a middle ground in light of the current financial constraints facing the government.

“We can push to get more allocation but prompt disbursement will be a problem and so that is why we settled for monies the government can commit and transfer to counties,” said the Kirinyaga Governor.

However, the committee chairperson, Homa Bay Senator Mr Kajwang’ was at pains to reconcile how the chairperson of governors would easily cave in and accept fewer funds to counties already starved of resources.

“We are pushing for counties to get Sh425 billion yet the chair of governors is sympathetic, apologetic and is sounding as if the national government is doing counties a favor,” charged Mr Kajwang’.

“I am very concerned that the COG chair is taking a middle ground rather than telling the senate to aim for the stars, are you conflicted because of your political affiliations?” he added.

Tharaka Nithi Senator Mwenda Gataya accused Ms Waiguru of being conflicted, asking her if the climb down is her personal view or that of all governors.

“Are you speaking on behalf of the national government saying it is broke?” asked the senator.

Mr Sifuna was even more forthright accusing Ms Waiguru of sabotaging the fight by senators to get more funds to counties.

He challenged the Kirinyaga governor to provide the evidence she is relying on to prove that the government is “broke”, saying available data on revenue collection say otherwise.

“Where is this narrative that the government is broke coming from? As supporters of devolution, we feel that you are sabotaging our argument for more funds to counties,” said the ODM secretary general. “It is like we are trying to climb up a tree to get you fruits but you are busy pulling our shoes.”