Senators call meeting to break revenue sharing impasse

Some of the senators opposed to the third generation basis for revenue sharing formula outside Parliament Buildings in Nairobi on August 4, 2020. File | Nation Media Group

Photo credit: NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Governors, meanwhile, piled pressure on Senators to reach a deal, saying counties are almost grounding to a halt and workers in some counties yet to receive their July salaries.
  • Mr Sakaja has proposed that Sh316.5 billion, which was the total equitable shareable revenue to counties in the 2019/20 financial year, be treated as the baseline, meaning that every county must get the same share it received in the last financial year.

Senators have called for crunch talks today as they attempt to forge a consensus on the county revenue formula impasse, a day after such a meeting failed. Previous meetings between a group of senators who have christened themselves as Team Kenya, led by Elgeyo Marakwet’s Kipchumba Murkomen, failed to send a team to the mediation table.

The plans came as Speaker Kenneth Lusaka warned that the window for getting a solution through consensus was fast coming to an end. Senators whose counties stand to lose in the proposed formula spurned a request to nominate five of them to join a reconciliation committee that Mr Lusaka has mandated with getting a solution to the impasse.

Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura said the meeting today, to be held 3pm at a venue he did not disclose, will provide his colleagues from across the divide with a platform to share thoughts on how to get a solution on the issue.

“It will be informal,” he said.

As Mr Mwaura spoke, Mr Lusaka was threatening to put the matter to a vote when the House reconvenes for business on Tuesday “because that is how decisions are made in Parliament”.

“Let the majority have their way and the minority have their say,” Mr Lusaka said, expressing his frustrations with the failure of the reconciliation process he had initiated last week.

Governors, meanwhile, piled pressure on Senators to reach a deal, saying counties are almost grounding to a halt and workers in some counties yet to receive their July salaries.

Paying suppliers

“Senators must know that when counties are not working or paying suppliers, local economies collapse,” Kajiado Governor Joseph ole Lenku said in Kajiado town, where his political nemesis Kajiado Central MP Memusi Kanchory proposed a truce with him.

The House had been scheduled to take the vote last Tuesday. However, Mr Murkomen successfully sponsored an adjournment motion, deferring the decision on the issue for a record seven times.

To justify his motion, Mr Murkomen had told the House that there was need for legislators to build consensus that will ensure that the formula adopted by the House is acceptable to all the 47 counties, and that no county will receive an allocation that is significantly lower than what it received in the last financial year.

In line with the adjournment, the Speaker formed a 10-member reconciliation committee and mandated it to reconcile the many proposals that have been mooted.

According to the Speaker, representation to the committee was to be based on the two opposing positions: the counties that have ganged up because they stand to gain from the formula, and those that have closed ranks because they stand to lose out or gain little should the proposed formula be adopted.

However, the move ran into headwinds after the Speaker delegated the leadership of the committee to his Margret Kamar. Further, Senators from counties that stand to lose, now under the banner of Team Kenya, questioned the framework underpinning the committee, arguing that it was designed to fail.

They said Ms Kamar was among those being referred to as gainers as her Uasin-Gishu County stands to gain over Sh1.2 billion should the new formula be adopted. Team Kenya, therefore, rejected her because she has openly declared her support to the proposed formula.

The gaining counties had proposed Senators Samson Cherargei (Nandi), Naomi Shiyonga (Nominated), Susan Kihika (Nakuru) and Ephraim Maina (Nyeri) to represent them on the committee. However, Team Kenya refused to send their representatives.

Expressed displeasure

The Sunday Nation has learnt that Team Kenya considers Senators James Orengo, Charles Kibiru, Irungu Kang’ata, Kimani Wamatangi and Samuel Poghisio as key players among the gaining counties, whose word is important if a solution is to be found.

That is why they rejected the idea of the committee and even refused to suggest representatives. They also had issues with the manner the committee was structured because they believe it was not meant to broker a solution.

As the row raged, Senators from Team Kenya expressed their displeasure with the Speaker’s stewardship of the issue, accusing him of being sympathetic to their opponents, who support the adoption of the formula generated by the committee.

Tharaka-Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki denied claims that Team Kenya is acting in bad faith to frustrate any smooth conclusion of the matter, but noted that the framework of engagement put in place by the Speaker is not right.

“There has been no effort being made to ensure that the process of reconciliation is carried out by a team that is fair and non-partisan,” Prof Kindiki said yesterday, pointing out that Ms Kamar has proved she is not neutral and therefore cannot be relied upon to play the role of a neutral arbiter.

Senate Minority Whip Mutula Kilonzo Junior also questioned the framework of engagement, pointing out that one of its weakest points is that it was not conceived by the House, but by the Speaker.

“We had not agreed on the framework of reconciliation. What we have is a proposal by the Speaker,” he said.

At a press conference on Friday, Team Kenya announced it had thrown its weight behind a proposed amendment by Meru Senator Mithika Linturi, which seeks to further amend the proposal by Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja that is already before the House.

Mr Linturi wants the baseline of the allocation to counties pegged at between Sh250 billion and Sh270 billion, which is a significant dip from Mr Sakaja’s proposal.

Mr Sakaja has proposed that Sh316.5 billion, which was the total equitable shareable revenue to counties in the 2019/20 financial year, be treated as the baseline, meaning that every county must get the same share it received in the last financial year.

Mr Linturi suggests that out of the the Sh316.5 billion, the range between Sh250 billion and Sh270 billion should be shared equally among all the 47 counties, with the difference being subjected to the formula developed by Mr Sakaja.

The final document

Mr Sakaja is rather clever in his mathematics. He proposes an index for determining who gets what, with Population assigned 18 per cent, Health Index 17 per cent, Agriculture 10 per cent, Urban Index 5 per cent, Poverty Index 14 per cent, land area 8 per cent, Fiscal Effort 1 per cent, Roads Index 6 per cent Prudence Index 1 per cent, and Basic Share 20 per cent.

Team Kenya has mandated him and Mr Linturi, in consultation with other colleagues, to ensure they burn the midnight oil and provide the final document before tomorrow.

“This is a sign of good faith and a proposal worth thinking about,” Prof Kindiki said, adding that it seeks to reduce gains and losses to either camps by about 70 per cent. “The proposal is a sign of the spirit of consensus which we can all achieve through climb-downs.”

The opposing group rejects the Linturi proposal because it is not formally before the House, and argues that in coming up with it, no sufficient consultations were done, a fact they insist is a sign of bad faith on the part of those proposing it.

“The truth that is emerging is that the entire impasse has been brought by a selfish group of individuals who want to maintain the status quo of skewed allocation to certain counties to the detriment of others,” Mr Cherargei said on Saturday.

 “We are being treated to the comedy of the absurd where those that are not coming to the table are calling a press conference claiming that they have a solution — which they have arrived at on their own.”

The impasse has been exemplified by the division in leadership of the Senate. On the Majority side, Mr Poghisio and his deputy Fatuma Dullo are on different planes on the issue. So is Majority Whip Kang’ata and his deputy whip Farhiya Ali.

Reduce allocations

This means that on the majority side, Mr Poghisio and Mr Kang’ata are in one corner that supports the formula developed by the committee. On the opposite end is Ms Dullo and Ms Ali, both of whom have declared they will oppose the proposal to reduce allocations to their counties, whatever the consequences.

But the Poghisio/Kang’ata axis has an advantage because it has the support of Deputy Speaker Kamar

In the Minority sides,  Mr James Orengo and his deputy Mr Cleopha Malala are equally singing from different corners, and so is Minority Whip Mutula Kilonzo Junior and his deputy, Ms Beatrice Kwamboka.

In other words, Mr Orengo and Ms Kwamboka are on one side while Kilonzo Junior and Mr Malala are on the other.

In any case, a majority of Senators have an eye on the 2022 gubernatorial race, and therefore the issue of resources has a personal touch to them in their own unique ways.

In a nutshell, therefore, most of the lawmakers see the issue of funds to counties as a dress rehearsal for their 2022 campaign for the governorship.

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