Revenue sharing formula: Gachagua’s new push and an analysis of the ‘one man, one-one shilling’ chorus.

  • 19 May 2024
  • 3 Mins Read
  • 〜 by James Ngunjiri


Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua recently waded into the emotive debate about the sharing of revenue between counties and the national government, stating that resources should be shared according to the population in each region. 

The Deputy President insisted that the revenue-sharing formula should be based on population rather than landmass, emphasising that public resources should follow people, not landmass.

This implies that county services must be as equal as possible by population, and investment should be made in critical areas such as health, agriculture, and urban areas while considering past and existing marginalisation. 

The “one-man, one-shilling” slogan featured prominently during the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) saga, particularly regarding advocacy for additional constituencies, a move that would have favoured certain areas in Central Kenya. 

The BBI debate was prominent in 2021 and 2022 before the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. At the time, then Mathira MP and now Deputy President Gachagua said: “We do not require a referendum to realise resources and representation equity; rather, it is something that we can effect through tinkering with laws in Parliament.” 

At the time, several leaders from the Mt Kenya region were on record saying that the region generates the highest share of tax revenue owing to its huge population and enterprise but gets a raw deal when it comes to accessing funding for development projects and services. 

Presently, the debate is likely to become a defining political subject and will spotlight Mr Gachagua and other senior political leaders from the Mt Kenya region.   

What the Constitution says 

According to the Katiba Institute, the Kenyan constitution does not recognise one person, one vote—indeed, one value. Article 81 says, “Equality of vote,” meaning that each vote should carry the same weight as far as practicable.

Additionally, the constitutional design for allocating national revenue to each county is not that it should be based only on the number of people within its boundaries. 

Factors to be taken into account in allocating funds among counties include economic disparities within and among counties, the need to remedy them, and the need for affirmative action with respect to disadvantaged areas and groups. “This reflects the Constitution’s emphasis on equality, and affirmative action and equity as ways of achieving true equality,” said Jill Cottrell Ghai, Director of Katiba Institute.

“If every part of the country were the same in terms of its existing state of development and services, and in terms of the challenges of bringing development and providing services, the population would be a rational basis for sharing national revenue between counties. But since neither of these is true, it would be unconstitutional to use that basis alone for sharing funding. It is not treating people equally (or equitably) if you treat everyone alike regardless of their needs. That is not to say that population is irrelevant,” said Jill Cottrell Ghai.  

Dr David Ndii, who has written extensively against the “one-man, one-shilling” call, said the debate about whether to put more weight on population or geography in the formula is completely misplaced, as far as the spirit and letter of the Constitution are concerned.  

In an article published in July 2020, Dr Ndii said the overarching principle to be used as a basis for revenue allocation is spelt out in the Principles of Public Finance (Article 201), specifically 201(b), which states that “the public finance system shall promote an equitable society” and 201(b) (iii) which says that “expenditure shall promote the equitable development of the country, including by making special provisions for marginalised groups and areas. 

He went on to state that “equitable society” and “equitable development” are defined by outcomes such as income per person, life expectancy, school enrolment and education outcomes, and access to healthcare.

“Put differently, this part of the “social contract” that we entered into in August 2010 obliges the state to redress the legacy of inequitable development, marginalisation and exclusion and to pursue development convergence across the country. While development disparities may persist for different reasons, no community or part of Kenya is entitled to more development than the other using public money. Any distribution of public resources which portends reinforcing these disparities, or creating new ones, is unconstitutional,” he stated.

Dr Ndii termed the “one man, one shilling” debate as a formula for revenue sharing as a complete reversal of the principle of equitable development for an equitable society enshrined in the constitution.