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Governors warn of counties shutdown on Sept 16 if revenue row persist

CoG Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya with three other governors during a press conference on August 29, 2019. /MOSES MUOKI.

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 29- The Council of Governors has warned that county governments will shut down from September 16 if the Division of Revenue impasse will not have been resolved.

COG Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya has urged the two houses of Parliament to resolve the matter expeditiously to ease the suffering in counties, where staff have not been paid in more than 20 of them.

“As you know this matter is with the Senate and the National Assembly, we hope that they can resolve this issue as soon as possible but beyond September 16, we will have no option but to shut down all the counties,” said Oparanya.

He told a news conference that if the matter remains unresolved, Counties will not be able to pay workers salaries by the end of the current month.

The governors are demanding Sh335 billion while the national government insists it can only disburse Sh316 billion, with President Uhuru Kenyatta telling the county chiefs to ‘take it or leave it.’

“We regret that some counties have not been able to pay salaries and we want to tell our employees to be prepared to go without salaries if this matter is not resolved by September 16,” Oparanya said.

The council’s sentiments come even as the meeting by the 18-member bicameral committee established to unlock the revenue stalemate facing counties aborted on Wednesday after Senators failed to raise the required quorum.

September 16 is the deadline given by the Supreme Court to mediation teams from the Senate and the National Assembly, to resolve the ongoing stalemate over the Division of Revenue Bill 2019.

A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court on August 15 ruled that it is prudent to allow the mediation process initiated be exhausted before the court intervenes.

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“We wish to make it clear that this court is willing to give an advisory opinion as soon as possible but we can’t bypass the ongoing constitutional process, I, therefore, direct the Senate to appoint a mediation committee and report to this court as soon as possible,” the bench led by Chief Justice David Maraga ruled.

However, the Council of Governors (COG), Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA), Senate, and Attorney General were of the opinion that the Maraga-led bench should hear the matter and make a determination.

“Release of monies to counties is a constitutional matter, let us resolve constitutional issues constitutionally and that can only be done in this court,” said lawyer Kamotho Waiganjo representing the Commission on Revenue Allocation.

“I plead with this court to proceed with the hearing and adjudicate this matter since mediation has failed,” pleaded lawyer Fred Ngatia for the COG.

“For posterity and for the sake of protecting devolution, despite the progress made in addressing this issue, this court should hear the parties and make a determination,” stated Kithure Kindiki on behalf of Senators.

The National Assembly which is the only party that was opposed to the matter being resolved in court, instead asked for more time to dialogue.

“Article 113 of the constitution, County governments anticipates for delays and allows them to access 50 percent of the money in case of delays, so I urge the court to give us time,” National Assembly submitted.

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