The Senate on Tuesday failed for the eighth time to approve a contentious formula for revenue sharing among the counties.
While it appeared the lawmakers were headed to vote on the formula, a last-minute intervention by Minority leader James Orengo changed the entire course of the debate.
Orengo said the House could not vote on the final motion when there were other proposed amendments to the formula proposed by the House Finance and Budget Committee.
The amendments are fronted by nominated Senator Petronilla Were, Kimani Wamatangi (Kiambu), Ledama Olekina (Narok) and Orengo from Siaya.
Were seeks to have a proposal by the Commission on Revenue Allocation adopted as the third basis for sharing revenue.
However, the senator is proposing that the status quo remains and the CRA formula kicks in when the equitable share is raised to Sh348 billion from the current Sh316.5 billion.
Orengo’s intervention forced the speaker to suspend the vote to allow for debate on the other proposed amendments.
“We need to give opportunity so these other senators with amendments can also be heard,” Speaker Kenneth Lusaka said.
Emotions ran high as the lawmakers engaged in heated debate, shouting matches and name-calling.
Earlier, senators opposing the committee’s formula had teamed up to push through an amendment to a proposal fronted by Mithika Linturi (Meru) to change aspects of a proposal by Johnson Sakaja (Nairobi).
The senators were set to break for a one-month recess on Tuesday. The speaker will now have to gazette a special sitting for further debate.
Earlier, senators opposing the controversial revenue sharing formula were poised to carry the day as the lawmakers engaged in heated debate.
The senators, whose counties were set to lose Sh17 billion in the disputed formula proposed by Finance and Budget committee, teamed up to approve amendments to the panel’s proposal.
The lawmakers, christened ‘One Kenya’ pushed through the amendments introduced by Linturi to change aspects of a proposal fronted by Sakaja to the committee’s proposal.
They voted 25 against 20 to push through the amendments, which they said would reduce the ‘magnitude of the loss and gain’ and ensure no county suffers massive reductions in their allocations.
“My basis of supporting the amendments is necessitated by the spirit of give and take. We need to make sure we mitigate the loss. Devolution was meant to bring areas that used to be called ASALs to the centre,” Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen said.
The former Majority leader is among the lawmakers opposed to the proposal fronted by the committee chaired by Senator Charles Kibiru (Kirinyaga).
“I want to reiterate the people of Elgeyo Marakwet sent me to the Senate not to fight for resources with my fellow senators but to fight for more resources. They did not send me to steal money from one county and give it to another,” he said.
“All these other proposals were based on a wrong principal. It is because it says that you take money from county A and give it to county B. That formula is wrong and we will continue telling them so until they hear us,” Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki said.
Senators Naomi Waqo (nominated, Marsabit), Enoch Wambua (Kitui), Cleophas Malala (Kakamega) and Ledama Olekina are among supporters of the amendment.
However, Orengo, Samuel Poghisio (Majority leader) and Irungu Kang’ata (Murang’a, Majority Chief Whip) led the other camp in opposing the amendments.
“We are engaging in a cold war among the counties and among ourselves when that should not be the case. We are fighting over Sh316.5 billion out of a budget of Sh3 trillion. We are fighting over a rabbit because of the elephant,” Orengo said.