6 March 2014

Kenya: Governors Vow to Fight for Equalisation Fund

GOVERNORS have vowed to go to court if MPs take over the Sh3.5 billion Equalisation Fund. Yesterday MPs overwhelmingly backed a Bill proposing to change the constitution and have the Equalisation Fund managed at the constituency level rather than the county level.

The MPs said some governors would take the money to their villages or undeserving areas. They were discussing the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill (No.2). The MPs want the fund to be administrated like the Constituency Development Fund which provides them with funds to be disbursed in their constituencies.

The CDF is calculated at 0.2 percent of the budget whereas the Equalization Fund is calculated at 0.5 percent. The Equalization Fund was created by the new constitution to provide special support to marginalised areas.

Yesterday Kisii governor James Ongwae and Meru governor Peter Munya swiftly warned of a legal battle if the law is enacted and signed by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

"I do not expect the president to sign any law that fights devolution. If he does, then only the courts will help us out," warned Ongwae.

"You cannot purport to amend the constitution using an Act of Parliament. Its is very clear who should manage this fund," said Munya.

The Equalization Fund is established under Article 204 of the constitution and has been set at Sh3.4 billion for the next financial year to benefit 14 counties.

It is meant for providing basic services including water, roads, health facilities and electricity to marginalised areas to bring them up to the level of the rest of the nation.

The initiator of the parliamentary motion, Lati Lelelit (Samburu West), said the amendment will bring the resources closer to the people.

He said that it was wrong for the Commission on Revenue Allocation to assume that marginalised areas have to be counties. "Even the most developed counties, they have marginalised areas within them," he said. "We are not trying to take any money from the governors. We are only saying that the Equalization Fund can be operationalised at the constituency level," added the MP.

Katoo ole Metito (Kajiado South) said a poverty index survey should be conducted to identify deserving areas. Nixon Ngikolong (Turkana East) said some areas have been considered as "not being Kenya" due to underdevelopment. He said administration of CDF has been tested so the Equalisation Fund should operate in a similar fashion. Arthur Odera (Teso North) said it will be easier to map out poverty indexes through constituencies.

The Equalization Fund is supposed to run for the next 20 years with the marginalised areas getting a fresh allocation each year. It is expected that after 20 years all 47 counties will be almost at par in terms of development.

CRA has identified the 14 marginalised counties to benefit from the fund as Turkana, Lamu, Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, Samburu, West Pokot, Tana River, Narok, Kwale, Garissa, Kilifi, Taita Taveta and Isiolo.

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