As its name suggests, the greater work of the CRA is to recommend how national revenue will be shared between the central government and the 47 County Governments:
216. (1) The principal function of the Commission on Revenue Allocation is to make recommendations concerning the basis for the equitable sharing of revenue raised by the national government–– (a) between the national and county governments; and (b) among the county governments.
In other words, the CRA is required to advise and make recommendations to Parliament each time a Bill seeking to withdraw and use money from the Equalization Fund is tabled in either House. Chapter 12 - Public Finance, Part 1 - Principals and Framework of Public Finance, excerpts:
204. (4) The Commission on Revenue Allocation shall be consulted and its recommendations considered before Parliament passes any Bill appropriating money out of the Equalisation Fund.
This ranks the Commission at the very top in importance especially on matters to do with Public Finance under the Constitution.
Thus, the people of Kenya expect teamwork and regular consultations to prevail between the CRA and Parliament during the entire process of the determination of revenue allocations:
205. (1) When a Bill that includes provisions dealing with the sharing of revenue, or any financial matter concerning county governments is published, the Commission on Revenue Allocation shall consider those provisions and may make recommendations to the National Assembly and the Senate.
(2) Any recommendations made by the Commission shall be tabled in Parliament, and each House shall consider the recommendations before voting on the Bill.
It is therefore quite clear that the spirit and intentions of the Constitution were to sufficiently empowered the CRA to temper and to guard against unequal and inequitable sharing of resources whether they be between the National Government and the County Governments, or among the county governments, given that resource allocation is a political process as mentioned earlier. Hence the Commission has a cardinal duty to moderate impartially on such Bills to ensure the fair and equitable allocation of resources.
Indeed, the Commission has come under sharp rebukes by some experts due to its perceived reluctance to enter the national debate on the proposed referendum call by sections of the political elite and civil society to raise the minimum share of national revenue that should go the county governments each year from the current constitutional 15% to 45%. To quote Kiriro wa Ngugi, "The Pesa Mashinani initiative by governors is also unconstitutional for very diﬀerent reasons. Those promoting this initiative have, in eﬀect, illegally usurped the functions of the Commission for Revenue Allocation as set out at Article 216.
"Incredibly, even the commission itself is constrained on how to go about its work. It is actually baﬄing that Mr Micah Cheserem and his team are sitting by watching a band of politicians take over their constitutional mandate without a ﬁght! We should expect the Commission for Revenue Allocation to protect their constitutional mandate, in court if necessary. The bottom line is that the determination of the amounts to be allocated to counties and among counties is a professional undertaking that requires very demanding and speciﬁc core competences that our governors do not possess." (Daily Nation, September 2014).
This important mandate of the CRA cannot be overemphasised when one bears in mind that quite often, the interests of either House of Parliament may on occasion be heavily laden with political and emotional biases making them prone to hijacking by unbriddled political interests as the referendum calls appear to suggest.
It is the hope of this author that in the event that the referendum process gets to the floor of each of the 47 County Assemblies as required by the Constitution, the CRA will rise to the occasion and advise the Assemblies on the soundness or otherwise of the proposed 45 percentage share of devolved funds.
Aware of the central role that matters of Public Finance play in the political stability and national cohesion of any country, the drafters of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 ensured that the CRA would be the only Commission expressly permitted to have one of its Commissioners attend sittings of the Commission on the Implementation of the Constitution, CIC, ostensibly to 249. (1)(a) "....... protect the sovereignty of the people; (b) secure the observance by all State organs of democratic values and principles; and (c) promote constitutionalism. Excerpts from Article 5 of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010:
(5) After the Commission on Revenue Allocation has been established, the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution shall send a notice of its meetings to that Commission, and a member of the Commission on Revenue Allocation shall be permitted to attend and participate in any such meeting, ....... .
Beyond a wide legislative mandate of regularly reviewing the sharable amounts to county (devolved) governments, the CRA will also play an active role in the enhancement of the rules and regulations governing the management of Public Finance applicable in the 47 regional governments:
216. (2) The Commission shall also make recommendations on other matters concerning the financing of, and management by, county governments, as required by this Constitution and national legislation.
What is more, the CRA must develop unquestionable capacity to effectively advise County Governments on their fund-raising and budget planning processes:
(3) In formulating recommendations, the Commission shall seek–– (a) to promote and give effect to the criteria mentioned in Article 203 (1); (b) when appropriate, to define and enhance the revenue sources of the national and county governments; and (c) to encourage fiscal responsibility.
To do this effectively, the Commission must enhance its data collection capacity especially in the Counties, so that any advise it gives out to a County government is tailor-made (reliable, accurate, and current) for that county.
Clause (c) above gives the Commission a shared mandate with the office of the Controller of Budget.