Sh1.2 billion in Budget sets stage for referendum

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Sh1.2 billion in Budget sets stage for referendum

The National Treasury building in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Parliament has allocated Sh1.2 billion for public hearings in the 2020/21 period, signifying that the country is gearing towards constitutional reforms.

In the report on Treasury’s proposed Budget, the Budget and Appropriations Committee (BAC) said the money would be used to fund projects arising from all public hearings to be conducted in the year starting July.

The committee chaired by Kikuyu Member of Parliament Kimani Ichung’wa said that the funds should be ring-fenced, meaning that they will be cushioned against any budgetary cuts by lawmakers or the National Treasury.

This comes days after lawmakers tabled the Referendum Bill 2020, laying the ground for a referendum in the week that President Uhuru Kenyatta said that the 2010 Constitution should be reviewed to address the current challenges.

“The committee therefore resolves as follows: That Sh1.2 billion be set aside to fund projects arising from public hearings. This expenditure should be domiciled under the Public Finance Management programme in the Ministry of Finance,” Mr Ichung’wah said.

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In his Madaraka Day address to the nation last week, President Kenyatta said the constitutional changes would end the cycle of post-election violence — the clearest indication that the country will hold a referendum on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) this year.

The allocation for the public hearings is one of the biggest gainers in the review of the Sh2.732 trillion budget that will be presented by Treasury Secretary Ukur Yatani on Thursday.

In the review of the budget, lawmakers also increased funding for the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS), Konza Technopolis, construction of strategic roads, constituency offices under the MPs and irrigation schemes.

They allocated NMS Sh28.4 billion, which is more than double what the Nairobi County government has been receiving under the equitable share to counties.

NMS, which is headed by Major-General Mohamed Badi, is under the Office of the President and took over the transport, health, planning and management, public works and ancillary services after Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko handed over the functions to the national government in March.

Other allocations include Sh5 billion for the Konza Technopolis, Sh2.6 billion to expand community-based irrigation schemes, Sh1.33 billion to construct ‘strategic’ roads and Sh1.05 billion meant for the constituency offices that are under the MPs.

The lawmakers also approved Sh900 million for the purchase of desks and improvement of infrastructure in primary schools.

MPs, however, slashed Sh2.34 billion from the Ministry of Health in the fight against the coronavirus diseae, saying that the allocation was made in the supplementary budget for the year ending this month, making it the biggest cut in the 2020/21 budget review.

They also cut Sh1 billion allocated for the Free Primary Education (FPE), saying that the amount proposed by Mr Yatani was above what was required for the 8.7 million learners captured under the National Education Management Information System (NEMIS).

Lawmakers also lost Sh2.02 billion for foreign and domestic travel and hospitality amid State and global restrictions on travel since March to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease.

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