Devolution Principal Secretary 'accidentally' reveals misuse of public cash

Devolution and Planning Principal Secretary Peter Mangiti

A document accidentally submitted to a parliamentary team left MPs shocked and convinced that the Ministry of Devolution has blatantly misappropriated huge amounts of taxpayer‘s monies.

The list exposes how the ministry acquired goods and services at inflated prices, with one Kaspersky security unit going for Sh973, 780. A photocopier (Kyocera 8001) was bought at Sh1.45 million while a “heavy duty” photocopier cost Sh1.38 million.

It also reveals that Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru‘s ministry acquired a piano ‘for office use’, 18 ‘tailor-made’ condom dispensers, a fridge and a TV for the CS, cookers, ovens, microwaves and tea urns. The cheapest goods were bought at three times the market price.

The document, which Principal Secretary Peter Mangiti confessed that he “erroneously” submitted to the PAC, indicated that condom dispensers cost Sh450,000, meaning a piece went for Sh25,000. The market price for condom dispensers, even in high-end blue-chip private sector organisations, is a maximum of Sh7,000.

The ministry also bought 20 fine-tipped ball pens at Sh174,000 (meaning each cost Sh8,700).

These goods were bought with public funds in the 2013-14 financial year.

Even with the inflated figures, the ministry couldn’t exhaust all of its allocation in one financial year. The ministry had asked for Sh11.4 billion, but only managed to spend Sh8 billion on these goods and overpriced assets.

At the meeting yesterday in the Main Parliament Buildings, Government auditors Jane Kariuki, Evans Ondari and Peter Ndung’u said they raised queries when they realised billions of shillings had been spent, yet they were never given supporting documents to back up the expenditure.

“The supporting payment vouchers were not provided, including a summary of fixed assets register,” the auditors said.

The Auditor General’s Report for 2013-14, which queried the spending and demanded a full “asset register”, is what exposed the misuse of public funds. It is that copy of the register from the Directorate of Public Service Management that had all the inflated bills.

The MPs kicked out the PS and top ministry officials from the committee meeting to explain why and how they threw prudence out of the window in favour of wanton wastage of public funds.

Public Accounts Committee chairman Nicholas Gumbo (Rarieda), members Abdikadir Aden (Balambala), Stephen Manoti (Bobasi), Kanini Kega (Kieni), Eseli Simiyu (Tongaren), Julius Melly (Tinderet), Kangogo Bowen (Marakwet East), Gonzi Rai (Kinango) all questioned the different items.

“This attitude of handling public funds as if you are handling waste paper is annoying! I would like to know, what photocopier is this that costs Sh1.5 million? What screen is this in the office of the Cabinet Secretary which cost Sh1.8 million? We live in this country and we know the prices,” said Gumbo.

The MPs were upset that even “consultancy” was included in the asset register for the Directorate of Public Service Management whose cost added up to Sh1.2 billion. The ministry has other directorates whose asset registers the committee had not finished interrogating by the time this story was filed.

“When did consultancy turn into an asset? Surely! This is atrocious!” railed Gumbo.

Mangiti tried to explain that he was not familiar with the specifications of the different items to defend the prices but MPs reminded him that he signed the forwarding letter with the schedule, and he ought to bring the people who made the schedule.

“This is shocking! This is serious! What we have is evidence of financial misappropriation. You actually spent this money this way? I am a software engineer, how can Adobe Indesign CS6 cost Sh1.9 million? Surely?” posed Bowen.

The Principal Secretary had at least 30 top officials of the ministry, but the key person who made the schedule was absent. He said the schedule was made by “the procurement people”. It is at that point that MPs kicked him out and told him to go and bring the procurement officers who prepared the asset register. PAC also directed that Waiguru and the PS appear before the team today.

The PS said there was “a mix-up somewhere” and the list was not supposed to be consumed by MPs.

“I really want to apologise,” said Mangiti.

Abdikadir pointed out that the price of laptops and desktops at Sh120,000 per piece was inflated. There is a laptop that cost Sh295,000, another cost Sh206,000 and the cheapest laptop cost Sh104,000. The cheapest new laptop in the market costs Sh30,000 and the Government can benefit from economies of scale.

“I had to look at the title five times, I saw it was written “asset register”. What are these amounts of rehabilitated bus parks, and storm water drainage doing here? And consultancy? Are these assets really?” posed Abdikadir Aden.

“What was this you were partitioning at Barclays Plaza, just office partitioning cost Sh12 million?” asked Eseli Simiyu.

Kanini Kega complained that Sh26 million was used to construct a market in Mweiga, yet it had not even been commissioned.

“That Mweiga market is in my constituency. It is not even complete. How could you have spent Sh26 million?” posed Kega.