Laikipia governor says only Sh1.2 billion pending bills are genuine

Laikipia Governor Joshua Irungu before the Senate Public Accounts Committee on June 12, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Laikipia Governor Joshua Irungu has told the Senate Public Accounts Committee that only Sh1.2 billion out of the Sh 2.2 billion pending bills inherited from the previous administration will be paid.

Mr Irungu who appeared before the Committee Chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang in Nairobi on Wednesday, said that the County Pending Bills Committee had queries about the eligibility of about Sh1 billion pending bills.

The governor who is serving a second term after he recaptured the seat in the last General Election told the committee that when he left office in 2017 the pending bills amounted to Sh400 million.

“When I left office at the end of my first term in 2017 I left pending bills worth Sh400 million, when I was re-elected last year I found Sh2.2 billion as pending bills, we have found out that Sh1.2 billion are genuine while Sh 1 billion pending bills are questionable,” he said.

The governor said it would be difficult for him to pay for work without proper documentation or was incomplete hence pending bills have to be thoroughly scrutinised to ensure public funds are not lost.

The Auditor General report for the financial year ended June 2020 flagged the county government for outstanding pending bills dating back to the financial year ended June 2016.

Irungu told the committee that besides incomplete documentation, delays in completion of projects, failure by county governments to meet their own source revenue targets, the National Treasury had been delaying to release equitable funds affecting clearance of pending bills.

“Most counties have pending bills stretching to several years back due to challenges starting from failure by the National Treasury to remit the equitable share funds on time and most counties failing to meet their own source revenue targets due to several factors,” he said.

But Mr Kajwang said that contractors and suppliers should not suffer because of the mishandling of paperwork by county officials.

He argued that as much as manufacturing of pending bills is criminal he has hardly seen any governor taking action on those who make the illegitimate claims by reporting the same to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission for investigations and prosecution to serve as a lesson to others.

Kajwang said that new governors always come up with pending bills verification committees and vowing not to pay the huge amounts owed but they do not take any action on those who make the claims that are questionable so that due diligence is done by relevant in authorities.

“Governors talking of not paying questionable pending bills is not enough. We want to see the action they have taken on those who intend to defraud counties of funds that can be put into better use instead of ending up in the pockets of a few individuals,” he said.

The Committee Chairperson said the law states that pending bills should be the first priority in any budget and it is time counties stop the circus surrounding payment of the same since they are not doing a favour to suppliers.

The governor told the committee that he has been paying Sh40 million every month and so far Sh478.9 million pending bills have been settled as of April 20, 2023 and another Sh60 million is in the pipeline before the financial year ends.

Tharaka Nithi Senator Mwenda Gataya said the pending bills issue raises many questions because some people do business today and are paid tomorrow while others have to wait for long and are forced to bribe before they receive their money, which he termed a sorry state of affairs.

Nyandarua Senator John Methu said pending bills are money owed to individuals who offered services to the county government and they should not be frustrated when it comes to being paid for goods and services offered.