Senate Speaker on the spot over Sh140 billion expenditure

When Senate Speaker and former Kilifi County Governor Amason Kingi was installed as an elder by the Turkana County Assembly. [Edwin Nyarangi, Standard]

Senate Speaker Amason Kingi has been put in the spotlight over the expenditure of at least Sh140 billion allocated to Kilifi County during his 10-year tenure as governor.

Senate County Public Accounts Committee expressed concern that the county which is third behind Nairobi and Turkana in receiving the highest equitable share revenue from the National Treasury had high levels of deficiency which did not reflect the billions of shillings allocation over the years.

The Committee chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang was shocked to learn that one law firm had billed Kilifi County Sh926 million during the financial year 2020/2021 over legal services worth around Sh300 million.

“With at least Sh 140 billion allocated to Kilifi county administration in the last 10 years we are supposed to see a tremendous change in the county, however, the poverty levels are high creating an avenue for religious radicalisation and indoctrination like we have seen it happen recently,” said Kajwang.

The Homa Bay Senator said that according to the audit report in some of the court cases the county did not make an appearance. He suspected that this was a plan by some county staff to rip off the county in collusion with the petitioners in the cases.

Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah said that the huge legal fees charged by one law firm indicated a clear collusion between the county and the advocates.

“This is theft on a grand scale with poverty levels in Kilifi very high. if there were funds lost, they should be recovered from the people involved and used to develop the county which is in dire need,” said Omtatah.

Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo told the committee that the current governor inherited empty coffers and that for the last one year that he has been in office he set up programmes that were aimed to improve the lives of the area residents and required the support of the Senate to achieve his development agenda.

Madzayo called on the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to carry out an investigation into corruption allegations with those found culpable for misappropriating money that was meant to improve the lives of the people of Kilifi being held accountable and made to return the looted cash to the county coffers.

Kisii Senator Richard Onyonka said that it was sad that counties were asking for money from the National Treasury yet they not making good use of the funds allocated to them so far making the senators who have been championing for more cash looking bad in the eyes of Kenyans.

“Like in the case of Kilifi county we have seen deliberate attempts to make sure that money was being paid even for matters that went to court and were dismissed with this being clearly being schemes of money being stolen over the years,” said Onyonka.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said that paying almost Sh 1 billion to one law firm by the county in unclear circumstances is unacceptable. He called for the invitation of the Senate Speaker to the committee to explain what transpired during his two terms as governor in the poverty ridden county.

Cherargei insisted that former governors who ran down their counties should not be left to go scott-free and should be summoned by the committee to explain their conduct and if found culpable of any wrong doing should be made to face the law to serve as a lesson to others.

Kilifi Governor Gideon Mung’aro who appeared before the committee to respond to audit queries raised by the Auditor General said that he inherited pending bills worth Sh3.2 billion and so far, he has paid Sh2.1 billion and was working towards clearing the remaining Sh 1.1 billion.

“In my first week as the governor of Kilifi County, I terminated the contract of the County Attorney and stopped the payment of Sh926 million to one law firm. I have also suspended the Director of Procurement, pending investigation over the questionable financial expenditure,” said Mung’aro.

The governor revealed that his administration will put advocates representing the county in various court cases on a retainer to ensure that they are paid a certain amount in a year notwithstanding the amount of work they will have done to reduce the huge wage bill going to legal fees.

Mungaro said that he had taken charge of the health care system in Kilifi with the construction of modern facilities and equipping them to ensure locals access quality medical care.