Senate committee says four governors using religion to escape audit queries

County Public Account and Investments (PAC) chair Senator Moses Kajwang when Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru appeared before the Senate CPAC committee at KICC, Nairobi on April 20, 2023 [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Senate County Public Accounts Committee Chairperson Moses Kajwang has accused four Governors of hiding behind religion in order to escape audit queries over the usage of billions of taxpayers' funds allocated to their counties.

Governors Nadhif Jama (Garissa), Ahmed Abdullahi (Wajir), Muhamed Ali (Marsabit) and Mohamed Khalif (Mandera) had been scheduled to appear before the Senate County Public Accounts Committee between this week and next week.

Kajwang said that the four Governors separately wrote letters to the Committee seeking deferment of their appearances for consideration of the Auditor General's reports for their counties for the 2019/20 financial year due to religious obligations that come with the holy month of Ramadhan.

"Governor Jama was set to appear before us on Tuesday but did not show up because he is allegedly out of the country, Governor Abdullahi is set to appear before the Committee on Thursday, Governor Ali is set to appear next Tuesday, while Governor Khalif is slated for Thursday next week," said Kajwang.

He said the committee has directed the four governors to appear before it as scheduled failure to which the Committee will invoke the Powers and Privileges Act and institute sanctions against them for failing to honour summons warning that they should not disobey them.

The four county chiefs who profess the Islamic faith wrote to the committee explaining that they are out of the country in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for the annual pilgrimage that comes with the month of Ramadhan and that they will not be able to honour the invites.

In the letter to the committee, Governor Abdullahi indicated the date of return as April 23 while Governor Khalif said he would return to the country on April 27 while Governor Jama and Governor Ali did not indicate when they will return and be able to appear before the committee.

The Committee had accepted the request by the four but Kisii Senator Richard Onyonka notified the committee that while the four governors had claimed to be out of the country, he had spotted some of them in the press conference convened by the Council of Governors in Nairobi on Monday.

Onyonka said that he had seen Governor Ali and Governor Abdullahi in the Press conference convened by the Council of Governors with the Wajir Governor who is the COG Vice Chairperson even making some remarks which surprised the committee which thought he was out of the country.

"It is surprising some of the Governors who had sought the indulgence of the committee not to appear before it in the next two weeks to respond to audit queries raised by the Auditor General since they were out of the country for religious reasons are very much around," said Onyonka.

The Kisii Senator said that the committee must summon the four governors to explain why they lied to the committee since they were seen criticizing the Senate at the Press Conference for failing to perform its work effectively to protect the interests of the counties yet that is what they were doing.

Senator Kajwang said that it was absurd that Governor Abdullahi was all over the media but he was not ready to appear before the committee to explain how public funds had been spent and that it was wrong for the four governors to hide behind religion to avoid scrutiny.

Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dullo supported the directive by the Committee arguing that the act of fasting in the Islamic tradition does not mean that people should not work and that Ramadhan ended last week and that the four governors had given lame excuses not to appear before the committee.

The committee resolved that the four appear as scheduled to put their case over audit queries so that the committee can make an informed decision and that the governors will have to show evidence of foreign travel if they have to avoid sanctions as provided for under the powers and privilege Act.

In line with the directive by the committee, Wajir Governor must now appear before the committee on Thursday while the Marsabit governor will have to appear on Tuesday next week while the Mandera Governor will appear before it on Thursday next week.

"Failure by the governors to appear before the committee will force us to invoke the Powers and Privileges Act that provides that any person who violates the rules of parliament or any of its committees is liable to a fine not exceeding Sh500,000." said Kajwang.