Tale of counties sinking in Sh20b debt amid graft, audit questions

County governments and assemblies owe suppliers more than Sh20 billion.

The Executive and assemblies failed to table documents to support pending bills for the financial year ended June 30.

For instance Machakos County owes suppliers Sh2.8 billion, Kisumu Sh2.5 billion, Kajiado Sh1.1 billion, Kakamega Sh1.0 billion, Vihiga Sh1.1 billion, Homabay Sh544 million, Nyamira Sh205 million and Migori Sh96.7 million.

Pending bills for Mombasa County total Sh89.9 million, Nairobi Sh79.9 million, Machakos Sh77.2 million, Nyamira Sh63.6 million, Vihiga Sh48.8 million, Tana River Sh16.3 million, Homa bay Sh9.7 million, West Pokot Sh9.5million, Elgeyo Marakwet Sh9 million and Uasin Gishu Sh3.6 million.

There are queries on how millions of shillings were sunk in projects that have stalled, as well as expenditure on foreign and local trips, and questionable training that should have been conducted locally but was done abroad.

The Auditor General has also queried hefty sums of money spent on hospitality and catering services.

During the year under review, the Auditor General established that collection of revenue has also reduced tremendously in most of the counties despite money being used to pay for allowances that are not accounted for.

Auditor General Edward Ouko says in his report that there are no records in the form of ledgers to show how bills totaling Sh2.8 billion were accumulated by Machakos CountyGovernment.

In Vihiga, the auditor says it is highly likely that the amounts owed to contractors were understated.

Undisclosed purposes

He explains that the figure of Sh1,180,505,788 was arrived at by calculating the agreed contract amounts against total payments for each project instead of the certified value work done or goods supplied against total payments made.

“The county executive’s bank statements maintained at the Central Bank revealed that some staff and non-staff were paid Sh239,675,566 for undisclosed purposes,” the report states.

Mr Ouko notes that Vihiga County Assembly MCAs were irregularly paid sitting allowances totaling to Sh3 million.

In Kakamega County, the audit report flagged the construction of the Sh66.6 million governor’s residence.

Ouko says two tenders were advertised showing the residence was to be constructed in Lugari and Lukuyani, adding that the Executive failed to produce the title deed for land.

It is also in Kakamega County that 24 laptops worth Sh4.7 million were found lying idle in a store since December 21, 2016. The laptops were bought for expansion of Oparanya Care Programme despite the project having been put on hold by a committee.

And on the Sh2.5 billion pending bills in Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o’s office, the auditor says the amount exceeds the bank balance of Sh1.3 billion as at June 30.

The Auditor General singled out pending bills including a media consultancy firm owed Sh2.8 million for publishing a county newspaper (Dholuo and English versions) and Sh225 million owed to persons with disabilities.

Migori County Government did not get value for Sh1.8 billion spent on the purchase of specialised plant, equipment and machinery.

Governor Okoth Obado’s office also did not provide documents showing how Sh286,732,824 was spent on hospitality supplies. The audit report indicates that hospitality and services exceeded the budget by 298 per cent and there was no evidence to show how an expenditure of Sh1,775,525,669 was approved.

In Nyamira County, Ouko queried why the Deputy Governor travelled to the USA for emergency management training on fire-fighting, a training he says is available in Kenya, adding that documents showing he was paid Sh964,600 and his airline boarding pass were not provided for audit.

Ouko warns that residents may not get value for Sh13.2 million paid during the year under review in respect of a doctor’s plaza building whose contsruction started in 2015-2016 and stalled.

In county assemblies, the Auditor General has raised queries on how hefty allowances were paid to MCAs during local and foreign trips.

In Homa Bay County, Sh96.3 million sitting allowances paid to Members of County Assembly cannot be accounted for.

Ouko says the committee registers and a summary of sittings for each member per month were not provided for audit review.

Procurement documents showing how a law firm operating in the area was awarded a tender to provide legal services and paid Sh6.5 million were not provided for audit.

The assembly also owes the taxman Sh49.8 million Pay As You Earn (PAYE) taxes deducted from employees yet the amount has not been included in pending bills list.

For Machakos, allowances paid to some MCA for overseas trips are still haunting the assembly.

MCAs have not forwarded to the auditor a report on the gains from their Media Partnership with M-Government Abu Dhabi trip in 2014. The MCAs were paid an extra Sh150,000 despite having received per diem.

Tana River County Assembly’s decision to spend Sh14.9 million on lunch, tea and snacks during trips and seminars was also raised after the authorities failed to produce documents such as invitation letters and records of the same.

It is also in this assembly that auditors found catering equipment bought at Sh8.6 million and delivered a year ago, gathering dust in a store.

While MCAs in other counties are driving cars acquired through loans and paying mortgages courtesy of the assemblies, Sh109,997,665 has been lying idle in Tana River assembly’s bank account at Kenya Commercial Bank for two years.

“Failure to utilise the funds is contrary to Section 116(2) and (4) of the Public Finance Management Act, 2012 which stipulates that the administrator of a county public fund shall ensure that monies held in the fund, including any earnings or accruals referred is spent only for the purposes for which the fund was established,” Ouko says.

Revealed disparities

Auditors examining Turkana County Assembly’s financial books discovered that a Sh2.2 million cheque was drawn to cater for travel and subsistence allowance for six MCAs in South Africa, a trip that did not materialise.

According to Ouko, Nakuru spent Sh59.7 million on MCAs’ sitting allowances, but the review of a biometric system that had been installed in the assembly to monitor attendance of the plenary and committee meetings revealed disparities.

“An analysis revealed that some committee members were being paid sitting allowances despite not attending meetings. In other instances, members signed in and within minutes signed out,” reveals the report.

Lamu County Assembly is also on the spot for spending Sh 13.4 million on pre-retirement training in Dubai where value for the money could not be confirmed.

Elgeyo Marakwet County Assembly procured kitchen equipment and furniture worth Sh 6.9 million which the Auditor General says was unnecessary

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County governmentsCorruptionDebt