Accounting officers to be charged with graft

National Assembly PAC committee members Junet Mohamed, Opiyo Wandayi (chair) and Jessica Mbalu (vice chair) during a past session at Parliament Buildings. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]
MPs want investigative agencies to probe and charge accounting officers who incurred irregular payment for goods and services during the 2016-2017 financial year.

The legislators want the officers to be charged with financial misconduct within the next three months. This is after the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in its 2016-17 report, tabled in the House last week, accused the accounting officers of presiding over graft and failing to observe relevant laws.

The committee, chaired by Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja), said principal secretaries in various ministries failed to follow the provisions of the Constitution and relevant laws when issuing what formed the basis of audit queries.

Irregular payments

“All accounting officers who incurred irregular payment for goods and services during the year under review should within three (3) months of adoption of this report, be investigated and if found culpable, charged for an offence of financial misconduct as provided for in Section 197(1) (h) of the PFM Act, 2012,” reads part of the report.

The lawmakers also recommended that Parliament should review the legislative framework governing the processing and frequencies of supplementary budgets, with a view of amending the Public Finance Management Act (PFM) and its attendant regulations.

The committee argued that supplementary budget estimates are associated with introduction of new projects in the course of the financial year, which is not contemplated in the Constitution and PFM act.

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In addition, the report recommends that National Treasury CS should bar any accounting officer whose entity received a qualified audit from being an accounting officer, unless cleared through writing by the Auditor-General.

“Within three months the Cabinet secretary National Treasury should issue a written reprimand to all the accounting officers who failed to manage imprests by ensuring that the outstanding imprests due were surrendered in time in line with the provisions of the PFM Act 2012 and Regulation 93 of the PFM (National Government) Regulations 2015,” the report recommends in part.

According to the committee the total un-surrendered or unaccounted for imprests amounted to Sh518,096,643 in the Financial Year 2016-2017. In its report the committee said the consistent failure to account for imprests on due dates undermines the accountability principle of public finance as contemplated in Article 201(1) of the Constitution.

Several ministries and departments had significant outstanding imprest during the financial year under review; Health (Sh77.5 million), National Humanitarian Fund (Sh72 million), State Department of Environment (Sh66.7 million), Lands and Physical Planning Sh66.2 million and Judiciary (Judicial Performance Improvement Project) (Sh40 million).

National register

According to the Opiyo Wandayi-led committee, some of the accounting officers were unable to complete payment process due to deactivation of the Integrated Financial Management Information System (Ifmis) and late loading of supplementary budget.

The committee also wants Treasury to compile a national register of assets for all assets owned by the national government and submit a comprehensive report to the National Assembly within six (6) months of adoption of this report.

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Accounting officersPACOpiyo Wandayi