Taita Taveta Governor Andrew Mwadime is under pressure to pay contractors and suppliers more than Sh1.8 billion pending bills.
The contractors said they were demanding what is rightfully theirs for completed and ongoing projects they had undertaken in the county dating back to 2013.
“The county has become a violator of the law. We are not only speaking for ourselves but for the vulnerable contractors and suppliers who have become the subject of bankruptcy as well as auctions by lenders and commercial banks," said Jefferson Mwabili, the chairman of Taita-Taveta County Caucus of Contractors and Suppliers.
"Delayed payments have given auctioneers a field day in recent times as they close in on defaulters for not meeting their contractual obligations," he added.
He noted that the county administration had not entered into an agreement with lending institutions or secondary suppliers, which has left them to suffer.
In a petition to the county assembly yesterday, the contractors said the continued delay to pay them has a direct consequence to the performance of the executive and creates a situation where the public never gets value for money allocated for development.
“The pending bills have not only had negative impact on the local economy, leading to increased level of unemployment and poverty, but also some of our members have died by suicide or economic stress -induced illness. Others have suffered depression, mental illness and inability to meet their family obligations like paying school fees, providing food and shelter,” read the petition.
Assembly Speaker Wisdom Mwamburi committed the petition to the Budget and Appropriation Committee.
Mwabili said the county owes some suppliers between Sh5 million and Sh50 million, depending on the contract.
Stay informed. Subscribe to our newsletter
“We have decided not to enter into any contractual agreement with the county administration to do new projects unless it clears all our pending bills,” he said.
In an interview yesterday, Governor Mwadime assured that he was committed to paying contractors their dues saying the challenge has been delay in disbursement of funds by the National Treasury.
He said the county only received funds from the national government in November last year.
“We are not to blame for the delay in settling the pending bills because we have been receiving money to pay salaries only,” he said.
The governor noted that county auditors had already scrutinized payment vouchers with a view to clearing the bills.
“Those who provided goods and services will be paid their dues,” said the governor, without indicating date of payment.
He said his administration has not paid any contractor because it does not have a budget.
Apart from scrutinizing the pending bills, Mwadime disclosed that his administration was also carrying out audit on the county assets and human capital that has been blamed for the ballooning wage bill. The audit will weed out imposters and those with fake academic papers.
Yesterday, MCAs said the pending bills were a thorn in the flesh of the county and promised contractors and suppliers that their petition will treated as a priority.
“The contractors have trusted the House and we will assist because we have their best interests, and the executive must fast track the verification of the pending bills for immediate settlement since we have set aside funds for contractors,” said deputy Speaker Anselim Mwadime.
MCAs Hope Anisa and Rose Shingira said devolution should benefit the grassroots.
“We are killing the contractors by failing to pay them instead of striving to uplift their living standards,” said Ms Anisa.
The ODM legislator faulted the executive for failing to engage reputable agencies and constrictors to verify the pending bills.
“The executive used the county auditors to verify the bills instead of using the contractors and other reputable agencies. We want to see the audit report before payment is done,” she told the speaker.
Ms Shingira regretted that the contractors had been suffering since 2013, and yet the House has been allocating money to settle the bills.
As of September 30, 2022, all counties reported pending bills amounting Sh161.36 billion.
The Council of Governors wants county bosses to take charge of the pending bills and ensure genuine ones are paid.