Uproar as fund for poor counties is cut by Sh3bn

Tabitha Mutinda

Senators Tabitha Mutinda and Ledama ole Kina, members of Senate County Public Investments and Special Funds Committee, during a session at KICC, Nairobi on May 23, 2023. Turkana Governor Jeremiah Ekamais Lomorukai Napotikan appeared before the committee. 

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Turkana, West Pokot, Narok, Mandera, Wajir, Samburu, Garissa and Baringo are the biggest losers after a kitty to uplift poor regions was slashed by Sh3 billion.

The eight regions will collectively lose Sh2 billion as marginalised counties are set to suffer a significant financial hit with Sh3.56 billion proposed to be slashed from the equalisation fund allocation for the current financial year.

Some 34 counties were to benefit from Sh13.89 billion equalisation fund allocation in the financial year ending June 2023 but the amount has now been reduced to Sh10.33 billion.

Earlier this month, senators had approved the allocations for financial years 2021/2022 and 2022/2023, to some 1,424 areas in the poor counties.

The fund is meant for developing basic services like provision of water, roads, health facilities and electricity to the marginalised regions.

However, the Senate Finance and Budget Committee has tabled amendments to the Equalisation Fund Appropriations Bill, 2023, aimed at slashing the allocation by Sh3.56 billion.

The committee’s vice chairperson, nominated Senator Tabitha Mutinda, said the proposed reduction is to align the fund to what has been approved by the national government.

She explained that the National Treasury had only allocated Sh10.33 billion in the supplementary budget and not the Sh13.89 billion approved by the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA).

The senator explained the Sh13.89 billion was the outstanding balance of Sh26 billion out of Sh52 billion that had been approved by CRA for the fund.

Ms Mutinda said out of the Sh26.2 billion, only Sh12.4 billion had been remitted and so the outstanding amount is supposed to be Sh13.89 billion.

“In our deliberations as a committee, what was approved by the National Treasury in the supplementary budget was Sh10.3 billion and we felt in the wisdom that we first receive the Sh10.33 billion and the balance will be included in the remaining balance,” said Ms Mutinda.

“So we decided that let us first receive what has been approved and hence that is what we are seeking in this amendment and which has further affected the schedule of each county as far as the distribution is concerned,” she added.

Following the reduction, among the worst hit counties are Turkana County whose allocation will be slashed by Sh394.6 million followed by West Pokot (Sh352.4 million), Narok (266.1million), Mandera (Sh259.8 million) and Wajir (Sh251.8 million).

Samburu will receive Sh224 million less, Garissa (Sh217.6 million), Baringo (Sh205.2 million), Kilifi (Sh186.2 million) and Marsabit (Sh162 million).

The fund’s secretariat has also been affected with the allocation for their expenses reduced from Sh416.8 million to Sh309.9 million.

The Equalization Fund is provided for under Article 204 of the Constitution to provide basic services including water, roads, health facilities and electricity to marginalised areas.

The Article provides that 0.5 per cent of the all revenue collected by the national government would be allocated to the Fund.

Since its establishment, the Fund entitlement stands at Sh54.03 billion but only Sh26.29 billion has been allocated and Sh12.4 billion disbursed in 2018.

Senators had criticised the CRA over distribution of the fund, accusing the commission of “playing politics” with the monies.

They raised concerns over the criteria used by the CRA to identify beneficiaries of the fund meant for marginalised counties.