SECTIONS

We must do more to curb the spread of graft to counties

Idd Mubarak to all! As Ramadhan comes to a close, a group of young Kenyans from North Eastern concluded a month-long arduous 1,000 km trek across the region dubbed ‘Walk of Hope’, to inspire confidence and restore hope. The movement by the group of professionals and activists is triggered by the growing insecurity, underdevelopment occasioned by historical isolation, and the imminent institutional collapse in the region, as well as the apparent indifference by the State. The group was hopeful that in the long term, it is in the interest of the residents to unite and liberate themselves from the choking yoke of insecurity, illiteracy and poverty.

The hopes of most parts of our nation, including North Eastern Kenya, lies in the successful devolution of power and resources to counties so that residents can prioritise their development needs to achieve a dignified level of progress. Two years into devolution, that hope is coming under serious pressure from our national vice of corruption that we have long argued will not be devolved to the counties.

Reports of county governments for 2013/14, the first full fiscal year released by the Auditor General this week, revealed massive irregularities in most counties, including the underdeveloped regions of Northern Kenya. The reports reveal misappropriation of funds, wastage, pilferage, procurement irregularities, unaccounted for funds, huge expenses not supported by documents and official disregard for due process of law, and procedures. Reading a county government report was like reading the corruption catalogue of national government’s ministries of the yore.

The Senate is inundated with petitions and complaints from the public about alleged blatant mismanagement of public resources. There were similar petitions by groups of county assembly members unable to get redress in their own assemblies because of alleged undue influence by county governors. At EACC, over a dozen governors are reportedly under investigation on allegations of abuse of office, nepotism, corruption and related offences.

The Controller of Budget too has been reporting poor controls over low local revenue collection, excessive travel expenses and persistent breach of financial management procedures, including failure to effectively operationalise all modules of IFMIS and lack of internal controls over assets and resources of the counties.

The primary institutions charged with oversight responsibility over the county governments are the county assemblies. Their ability to check the counties have been profoundly undermined by weak institutional capacity to effective undertake their mandate, poor calibre of some of the MCAs and the suffocating grip over the assembly men and women by the governors in most counties.

In an attempt to address these challenges, the Senate has endeavoured to give these assemblies adequate financial resources to train their members, build professional and supervisory capacity and develop necessary tools and benchmarks to execute their legislative and oversight roles effectively. The Constitution envisaged that these assembly men and women, elected by the county residents, would live up to their billing and hold their executive in check. Sadly, many have become appendages of the county executive.

The Senate is also pursuing financial independence for the assemblies to access their funds directly from the exchequer rather than through the executive who often hold them to ransom.

The Senate will continue to complement their mandate by enhancing its oversight role to ensure funds transferred to counties do not line pockets of individuals. Without swift and firm action from all oversight institutions, we may be devolving more corruption to counties than development, and dashing the hopes of Kenyans.