Kenyans have been treated to a circus for the last two weeks or so with regards to the Division of revenue Bill 2019 that is currently pending in both the senate and Parliament. The matter is so grave that the Council of Governors has said enough is enough! Led by the Chair Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, they have approached the Supreme Court for interpretation. As much as the issue might be some type of supremacy battle between the two houses, it risks getting out of hand leading to a complete shut down of County Governments. Let us not forget that if the impasse ifs unlocked county workers risk going home without a salary at the end of this month.
The Commission for Revenue Allocation has already spoken on the matter but still parliament has stuck to her guns. The world over, Parliamentary Budget Offices (PBOs) have been a great source at providing sound and credible, analysis on proposed amendments to fiscal frameworks, money Bills, including policy proposals with budgetary implications. In Kenya, our very own PBO is a directorate under the Parliamentary Service Commission, which its mandate can be summarized as providing advice to the Budget and Appropriation Committee, led by Kikuyu MP, Kimani Ichung’wa.
World over, money bills are always a borne of contention and it was about time this would be a reality in our legislature. The recent break down of coordination in our nascent bicarmel legislature just shows how the National Assembly requires truce for proper dispensing of her duties. The Parliamentary Budget Office could play a major role in strengthening parliaments checks and balance on the executive, which recently has been marred with Incidences of corruption and financial malpractices. By elevating the PBO to be an independent office, will mediate any simmering tensions on money bills ensuring unity and robust discussions, including proper public participation for transparency and accountability. A stronger PBO will provide independent, objective and professional advice and analysis to Parliament on matters related to the budget and other money Bills thereby developing not only a common position and responsibility but also mainstream devolution issues onto parliamentary work. Kenya’s parliament is in urgent need of reform! The Constitution envisages a fundamental role for Parliament in holding the state to account and ensuring the voices of citizens are heard beyond elections. With the current state of the economy and public finances, there are few more areas in need of credible and robust oversight that is free of political sideshows and executive fiat.
A stronger, effective and unshaken legislative arm is the sole custodian of governance in any democracy and until we continuously test and improve on our systems of governance we will always be fighting corruption and other political and financial malpractices without success.
Written by Raymond Obare