Senate has powers to summon Governors over county revenue, Apex Court rules

The Kenyan Supreme Court on Friday declared that the Senate has the jurisdiction to summon County Governors to answer questions or provide information, on various issues of interest to the House.

The Apex court ruling now effectively stamps the Senate’s control over its oversight function of County revenue.

According to the Court, the Senate’s oversight authority extends beyond nationally allotted funds to locally generated revenue earned by counties.

The decision came after former Governors Isaac Ruto of Bomet County, William Kabogo of Kiambu County, Mwangi wa Iria of Murang’a County, and Jack Ranguma of Kisumu County refused to honor Senate summons despite Court Orders.

The Senate issued summons to the Governors, demanding them to testify before the Committee on August 26, 2014, but they declined, claiming that the Senate could not exercise its powers in a way that crippled County Governments.

This prompted the Senate to issue a resolution requesting that the CS Treasury, delay the transfer of cash to the County Governments and that the Controller of Budgets withholds approval of the abovementioned County Governments’ withdrawal of public monies.

Decision at the high court

The High Court ruling that was appealed had given the Senate a greenlight to review expenditure reports from counties and take action where necessary.

“On the role of Senate, the Court held that under the provisions of Article 95 (4)(c) of the Constitution, the National Assembly has the mandate to exercise oversight over national revenue and expenditure. It held that the Senate is the organ that relates with the National Government at the national level over County interests, and therefore has oversight powers over national revenues allocated to Counties,” the High Court ruled.

The court further stated that the senate’s function included reviewing reports, examining financial statements and documents provided to it, and then taking necessary action, including suggestions on the accountable expenditure of public funds from national revenue allocated to each county.

“In examining these financial statements and documents, the Senate or its Committees has the power to summon any person to appear before it for purposes of giving evidence or providing information,” court judgment reads.

The Supreme Court held that County Assemblies can examine the management of County affairs, including the usage of revenue, by County Executives. What County Assemblies cannot do is assume the job of the County Executive in the name of oversight, as this would be a violation of the concept of separation of powers.

The Supreme Court further stated that just because the county revenue is generated locally does not exempt it from Senate oversight.

“Such revenue still falls within the rubric of “public finance” whose use must remain under the radar of scrutiny and oversight by the State organs established for that purpose,” the Supreme Court ruled.

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