In Summary
  • A budget stalemate should constitute neither an internal conflict nor an exceptional circumstance.
  • The Intergovernmental Relations Act only provides for disputes between the two tiers of government and between county governments.

Taita-Taveta Governor Granton Samboja has initiated the suspension of the county government over a 2019/2020 budget impasse between the executive and the county assembly.

He reckons that the MCAs’ decision to allocate Sh830 million to the development fund out of a Sh5.3 billion budget will imperil the operations of the county.

Mr Samboja has flatly refused to submit the Appropriation Bill for consideration by the county assembly, though it ought to have been passed by June 30.

Section 134 of the Public Finance Management (PFM) Act 2012 contemplates such a situation and gives the county assembly the power to authorise withdrawal of up to 50 per cent of the amount in the estimates submitted to it until the appropriation law is passed. Will it invoke the provision to enable the county meet its obligations, including the MCAs’ salaries?

The governor collected signatures of Taita-Taveta residents in support of the petition to the President. If actualised, the MCAs and the governor must seek a fresh mandate.

The move is a major test on the doctrine of sovereignty of the people.

SUSPENSION
Article 192 provides for only two circumstances which can trigger a suspension: In an emergency arising out of internal conflict or war, or in any other exceptional circumstances.

The County Government Act defines exceptional circumstances as actions by the county government that are against the common needs and interest of the local citizens.

After he receives a petition signed by not less than 10 per cent of the registered voters in the county, the President should table the petition to the Summit for approval and, if approved, appoint an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations.

If satisfied, he forwards the petition, recommendations and the report of the commission to the Senate for its approval, upon which he gazettes the suspension of the county government.

Interestingly, the Senate has the power to lift the suspension in 90 days. If not lifted, election of a new county government are held. Then, the county executive stands suspended and the county assembly prorogued. The County Speaker and the MCAs remain in office on half pay. The President then appoints an interim county management board.

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