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The East African : June 2nd 2014
20 The EastAfrican OPINION MAY 31 - JUNE 6, 2014 Senate debates division of ≥evenue, media igno≥es the whole thing, hospitals lose out Senators seemed unwilling to start a fight with the Assembly and further delay the Bill” Jason Lakin There was little serious media coverage of the Senate’s deliberations or the final outcome of the Division of Revenue debate. A Google search of “Senate Division of Revenue” revealed endless links from the 2013 Division of Revenue fight, but virtually no references to the 2014 debate. It is hard to understand how there O can be so much high visibility political squabbling over money for counties, and so little interest when the actual Bill is approved by parliament. The media blackout, combined with the delay in putting up the Hansard on the Senate website, made it virtually impossible to know what actually happened in the debate. Thankfully, we now have the Hansard, and can evaluate what occurred. n May 15, Kenya’s Senate passed the single most important piece of legislation affecting counties in 2014. On the fundamental matter of whether the money for counties was adequate, the Senate agreed with the National Assembly to support a figure of just under Ksh227 billion in equitable sharing (the unconditional grant to counties to support their budgets). Virtually every Senator agreed that this was not enough money, but a proposed amendment by Senator James Orengo to raise the figure to the Commission on Revenue Allocationsupported Ksh279 billion narrowly failed (14 Senators voting against, 13 in favour). Quite a substantial part of the Sen- ate debate was preoccupied with the issue of the “right” percentage share for counties. It was finally admitted by Senator Billow Kerrow that the 2013 Division of Revenue Act was wrongly based on the 2010/11 audited revenues, which had not actually been approved by the National Assembly. Thus the use of the 2009/10 figures this year, which has inflated the apparent share of revenues going to counties to 43 per cent. Almost no one actually questioned the calculations made by the Treasury or the CRA on the fundamentals. Only Senator Wamatangi pointed out that it is not actually clear why these figures differ (drawing special attention to the wage costs of running counties) and that it is parliament’s job to ask for further information. Yet it does not seem to have done so, or at least that information has not entered the public record. Why didn’t Senators agree to a higher figure for counties if they all agreed the National Assembly figure was too low? It appears that, in spite of the fact that the Senate was given a role in this year’s Division of Revenue (unlike last year), they were still largely sidelined in the political negotiations (with Governors) leading to the figure of Ksh227 billion. Senators seemed unwilling to precipitate a fight with the Assembly and risk further delaying the Bill. They also have little evidence to back their views and no new analysis since last year. Senators did make several minor amendments to the Bill. The most important of these concerned the issue of funding for regional hospitals. To recall, last year, Treasury had proposed a conditional grant of Ksh10 billion to support 11 Level 5 hospitals providing services to multiple counties. The figure was in line with the 2012/13 spending on these facilities. The National Assembly reduced this to Ksh3.4 billion, raising questions about whether they had sufficient funding. This year, the Assembly eliminated the grant altogether, in spite of a Budget Committee report endorsing its continuation. The Senate appears not to have wanted to try to restore the grant directly because this too might have sparked conflict with the National Assembly. Instead, they adopted a curious amendment that states that the national share of revenue must include “adequate financing” for Level 5 hospitals. It is not clear what this means exactly. In the first place, although Senators spoke of Ksh10 billion in the debate, there is no legal statement anywhere that this sum is what is considered “adequate.” Moreover, since L5s have been transferred to counties, what is the mechanism for moving the funds from national government to L5 facilities if not through a conditional grant? Finally, since the share of funds going to the two levels remains the same, how is the Senate ensuring that the national allocation includes these Since L5s have been transferred to counties, what is the mechanism for moving the funds to them if not through a conditional grant? funds? If one assumes (as we always have) that these funds were included in the equitable share and given to all counties, then they have to be removed from the county share and given back to national government. What the Senate appears to have done is to try to force the national government to allocate additional funds for these hospitals through the Division of Revenue, a decision that can only really be taken by the National Assembly in approving the national budget. So what will the legal standing of this amendment be? And so it goes, as we continue to play politics with Kenya’s hospitals. Jason Lakin is senio≥ p≥og≥amme o∞ce≥ and ≥esea≥ch fellow at the Inte≥national Budget Pa≥tne≥ship/ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Uganda opposition ≥igging the poll? B≥ing in the milita≥y B eyond some dictator or other’s immediate need to hang on to power, sham elections have other uses. As events in Egypt show, by pre- tending there has been an election, the entire spectrum of role playing can be acted out without inconvenient political and diplomatic hiccups. The West can recognise the “new government” and congratulate them on a successful democratic outcome; the local elites can go back to jostling for government tenders and jobs for their children; and the opposition who participated are left without an argument as to why they participated in a process they now call a fraud. A naked coup d’etat can create domestic complications in the donor countries that impede the flow of trade and aid. Locally, the soldiers now running things will also eventually begin to muscle in on civilian crony deals, and the opposition will be given the excuse to begin an armed struggle. For these reasons, it is best avoided for as long as possible. But this does not mean forever. The day may well come when the strongman is left with no option. The one enduring image from Uganda’s 1996 presidential election is of candidate Yoweri Museveni suddenly appearing on national television, late on the night of polling day. His message was simple: First, the supporters of the opposition candidate should immediately stop their celebrations forthwith as these were “premature”; second, nobody should assume to know more than the (still silent) election authorities about the voting outcome; and third, Ugandans should be reminded that he was that is noteworthy in the manner of their victory: First, it was for a parliamentary seat in Lu- A naked coup d’etat is best avoided for as long as possible. But this does not mean forever.” Kalundi Se≥umaga speaking not just as head of state, but also as a founder of the army. Given his decision to wear military fatigues, and despite the rather odd pair of spectacle perched on his nose, the message got through. Uganda had not had a fair election prior to this, and clearly did not have one then, and beyond the technical ability to deliver fraudulent outcomes in a less ham-fisted manner, matters have not improved since then. Understandably therefore, Uganda’s current opposition is making much of the outcomes of last week’s parliamentary by-election where Museveni’s ruling National Resistance Movement went down to a humiliating defeat. Certainly, there is much Already, army officers have been deployed to the countryside to head ‘service delivery’ initiatives in a way that totally bypasses the local government system weero district, considered sacred ground for the NRM, given its role as their first base during the civil war that brought them to power. As such, it is supposed to be the one place where their “revolutionary” bond with “the masses” is unbreakable. Second, it was for a women’s seat, a demographic in which the NRM is supposed to have another unshakable bond forged during the “revolution.” The defeat has helped bury those twin myths. Third, this defeat comes as the latest in a near complete succession of electoral defeats for the ruling party in various parts of the country, a succession into which the opposition now reads a trend. Fourth, it was perhaps the first concrete re- sult from the opposition parties’ new strategy of uniting to field one candidate against the ruling party. This was spiced up by the sight of Dr Gilbert Bukenya, former vice-president of Uganda, and still an official of the ruling party, campaigning for the opposition’s candidate. Finally, the fact that President Museveni campaigned in person for his party’s doomed candidate only sweetened the opposition victory. But the crowning event for them was the bizarre missive the president then released to the media alleging collusion in “vote-rigging” between the opposition parties and election officials. Opposition leaders promptly reminded him of their long-standing demands for electoral reform. Perhaps they should be careful what they wish for, as such presidential concern could well lead to changes, but not the ones they expect. The ruse of sham elections seems to have fi- nally now expired. But since losing an election in Uganda has never meant also losing power, this simply means that the regime must now organise other ways by which this power may be retained. This is where other recent pronouncements may have greater significance. For some time now, President Museveni has been making the point that government activities headed by military officers — never mind the legalities — have been producing better results than activities left under civilian leadership. Already, military officers have been deployed to various parts of the countryside to head “service delivery” initiatives in a way that totally bypasses the local government system. Most recently, the Office of the President an- nounced the dissolution of the national body charged with the reorganisation and development of Uganda’s crisis-ridden agricultural sector. This came just a few days after he had made the point in a public speech about how a similar programme within the military had been producing much better results. With the presidential criticisms about the Electoral Commission, the opposition should be wary that this does not lead to a formal role for the military in managing the next election, or even a full-blown military intervention into the question of how the next government gets into place, as has now happened at the other end of the Nile.
May 26th 2014
June 9th 2014