For the umpteenth time we have to revisit the well-publicised stalemate between the National Assembly and the Senate over the Division of Revenue Bill that has destabilised operations at the counties. The situation is getting worse by the day but the two chambers of the House seem oblivious and unresponsive to the unfolding socio-economic and political upheaval at the counties.
Now, the Council of Governors has issued a notice to shut down county operations if the dispute is not resolved within the next few days. Already, several counties have had to contend with workers’ strikes over unpaid salaries. Many services are severely constrained. Suppliers and contractors have not been paid for months, occasioning grave financial distress to many people.
For nearly three months, the two Houses have engaged in a vicious contest over the amount of cash to be allocated to counties. Whereas the National Assembly proposed Sh316.5 billion, the Senate sought Sh336 billion. Several efforts have been made to reconcile the two chambers, including an advisory by Chief Justice David Maraga that the matter ought to be resolved without judicial intervention. All that has come to naught.
Yet the amount being contested, about Sh20 billion, can be harmonised through open discussion. Unfortunately, members of the two Houses are obsessed with power struggles.
The reason we keep revisiting this matter is that the cash crunch threatens to bring down counties and kill the devolution spirit. Devolution stands out as the cornerstone of the 2010 Constitution, anchored as it is on the principle of dispersal of powers and empowering communities to make decisions on matters affecting them. Thus, devolution must be jealously guarded and any attempt to jeopardise it resisted by all means.
Evidence abounds of what devolution has done. There is remarkable infrastructure and social developments in counties. Business opportunities have opened up and expanded. Indeed, that has helped in controlling rural-to-urban flight and decongesting cities.
Despite this, we are appalled that the counties have become the theatre for greed, theft, pilferage and waste. Large amounts of resources deployed to the counties are appropriated by a few county leaders and their cronies. Corruption is rampant in the counties. Not surprisingly, several governors have been charged in court over graft. Projects are undertaken in an haphazard manner, resulting in colossal wastage. Governors and top county officials indulge in lavish spending and ostentatious living at the expense of taxpayers.
Whatever the case, the dispute must be resolved urgently to avert the looming crisis at the counties. Citizens cannot suffer because parliamentarians cannot agree on allocations to counties.