Senate to summon former governors to answer audit queries

Investments and Special Funds committee chair Godfrey Osotsi (right) and Senator Miraj Abdulrahman during the committee's meeting at Parliament buildings,Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

The Senate plans to summon former governors to answer audit queries relating to their tenure in office since those who succeeded them were finding it difficult to respond to the issues.

The Senate County Public Investment and Special Funds Committee chairman Godfrey Osotsi said while the 47 county governments operated in perpetuity, it was time for former accountable to be held accountable for issues pertaining to their tenure.

Osotsi who were speaking during the appearance of Kisii Governor Simba Arati to answer audit queries over the utilisation of various county funds between the financial years 2019 and 2022, said there was a clear need to have former county bosses appear before the committee.

“This committee might consider inviting former Kisii Governor James Ongwae to shed more light on how millions of shillings allocated to various county funds between 2019 and 2022 when he was in office were utilised since the current governor cannot explain what really happened,” he said.

The committee interrogated the Audit General report for the financial statements for the three financial years regarding Kisii County Bursary Fund, Kisii County Emergency Fund, Kisii County Demonstration Farm Fund, Kisii County Alcoholic Drinks Control Fund and Kisii County Loans and Mortgages Fund.

The Ongwae administration is in a spot over the expenditure of Sh416.5 million meant for bursaries for the three financial years with the audit report showing that only Sh7.2 million was disbursed to students with the rest of the money not spent for the intended purpose.

According to the Auditor General report  Sh135 million was allocated for bursaries for the financial year ending June 30, 2020 with no explanation provided for failure by the county Executive to remit funds to the bursary account during the year under review.

The financial statement during that year reflects bursary disbursement of Sh3, 286,789 to needy students in various secondary schools. However, bursaries amounting to Sh2,742,789 were not supported with acknowledgement receipts from the respective institutions or evidence that they were received by the intended beneficiaries.

“Further, the statement of comparison of budget and actual reflects that the Fund expended Sh3,419,047 against an approved budget of Sh135,000,000 resulting to an under-expenditure of Sh131,580,953 or 98 per cent of the budget,” said the Auditor General.

The Audit report showed that in the financial year ending June 2021 out of the approved expenditure budget of Sh146,500,000 for bursaries the Fund spent Sh3,398,337 resulting in under expenditure of Sh143, 101,663 or 98 per cent of the budget.

The Auditor General said that in the circumstances, the disadvantaged or needy students in Kisii county, may have been denied support to pursue education.

According to the report in the financial year ending June 30,2022, out of the approved Sh11 million for bursaries the Fund spent Sh520,000 resulting in under expenditure of Sh10,480,000 or 95 per cent of the budget.

Arati told the committee that his administration had set aside Sh245 million for bursary in this financial year with each of the 45 wards getting Sh45 million and the funds will be distributed to deserving students.

“I would like to assure this committee that my administration is committed to rectify the anomalies witnessed in the past regime as far as bursary disbursement is concerned since this is a very emotive issue meant to benefit the less fortunate in the society,” he said.

The governor said he has put in place mechanisms to ensure prudent expenditure of funds during his tenure and any county official who will be accused of misappropriating the monies will face the law.

But Osotsi said that the sustainability of the Kisii County Bursary Fund was uncertain due to non-disbursement of money by the county government.

The committee noted that the county took remedial measures to reverse the undesirable financial position of the Fund and requested the Auditor-General to verify if the mitigation measures address the concern of the sustainability of the Fund and submit a status report on the same within 14 days from the date of the meeting.

“The Committee noted that there was irregular transfer of funds from the Bursary Fund for financial years 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 to the County Treasury without following the necessary procedures contemplated under section 142 of the Public Finance Management Act Cap. 412A,” said Osotsi.

Nominated Senator Tabitha Mutinda said that the purpose of the transferred amount remained unclear and that no documentary evidence in support of the same had been provided for audit. The committee directed the Auditor-General to commence a forensic audit of the funds transfer.

Mutinda said that the Auditor General should look into Sh1,832,000 and Sh4,855,000 that were transferred from the Bursary Fund to the County Treasury in financial years 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 respectively and submit a report to the Committee within 30 days from the date of the meeting.