Auditor General’s most recent report reveals some glaring inconsistencies in counties’ financial probity that call for the Senate to check their lack of prudent expenditure of public money. Twenty-nine Counties cannot account for their budget allocations and reported revenues remain low despite increased levies.
The report sheds light into a web of mechanisms employed by county government officials to avoid accounting for public funds. Local revenue remains low in counties and waste, over-expenditure, shifting of funds to unbudgeted items, plus outright theft is endemic.
Reduced and unaccounted for revenues is one of the issues raised in the audit queries. For instance in Nairobi County, the report reveals that though the county generated Sh5.5 billion as revenue, only Sh5.2 billion was banked. This raises questions on the whereabouts of Sh252 million. This amount was not banked, neither was its expenditure approved by the Controller of Budget (CoB).
Counties also failed to provide proper documentation on expenditure. For instance, In Kisii County, the assembly paid the MCAs Sh20 million for foreign trips yet they did not provide supporting documents. This includes claims made on the trips to China, Germany, Israel, United States and Uganda which had no backing in the form of invitation letters or passports to prove that the members travelled.
Unregulated expenditures were also raised. In Nyamira, the office of the governor at one point paid 33 MCAs and the speaker Sh10000 each for lunch as they discussed the Finance Bill. This is against the law as they did not even move out of their work stations or location.
Reports in the media indicated that the Senate’s Public Accounts Committee intends on summoning Governors and County Assembly clerks to explain the reported plunder of the public funds allocated to their counties. That meeting needs to happen soonest to keep counties in check as they start implementing the current budget.
The Senate was specifically created to advance devolution and protect it. Recently, it won a court case in which Governors did not want to be summoned by them but the court ruled that it has the powers to do so. This teeth needs to bite.
Protecting devolution which Kenyans fought for and want to see make their lives better will not be realized if office bearers in counties are allowed to plunder public money. The Auditor’s report made some recommendations on the specific cases including surcharging members, calling for further investigations and adhering to procurement regulations.
It is hoped that Senators will call the individuals concerned to explain the inaccuracies and take further actions against those who fail to give credible reasons for the failure to exercise financial oversight in the counties. Senate has powers to bring this plunder to a stop and needs to do it, Pronto!