Why the Controller of Budget has rejected Sh3b request by counties

Controller of Budget Dr Margaret Nyakang'o when she appeared before the Committee on County and Special Funds at KICC,Nairobi. February 22, 2023. [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

The Office of the Controller of Budget (OCOB) has declined to approve requests by counties to withdraw Sh3.2 billion.

The requests were turned down over claims the devolved units "flouted several laws and there was lack of clarity on why the funds were needed".

Documents seen by The Standard indicate that by January 31, county governments had applied requisitions amounting to Sh182.7 billion since August last year.

Despite the government issuing strict guidelines on OCOB, the documents indicate that some county governments could still be violating laws as they seek funds.

During the period under review, OCOB approved withdrawal requests amounting to Sh179.5 billion to the counties. The development does not bode well for some county governments that are yet to offset workers' salary arrears.

A report on Approval of Requisitions by OCOB flagged a number of requests made by some counties that either violated the laws or failed to provide proper documentation.

The rejected requests include counties that sought per diems for staff amounting to millions without providing any documentation.

A Sh243.3 million withdrawal request made by Narok county on November 2, last year, to enable them hire ambulances, is among those flagged in the report.

The request was listed under operation and maintenance. However, according to OCOB, the decision by the devolved unit to hire ambulances at Sh243 million instead of purchasing is a misplaced priority.

An attempt by the devolved unit to receive Sh130 million for operations and maintenance, was rejected by OCOB for lack of clarity.

The devolved unit reportedly failed to indicate the reason for planned bulk transfers to departments without any clear activities.

Some 14 different requests from the Bungoma County, ranging from Sh2.9 million to Sh29.7 million, was also rejected for flouting the law. Between September 22, 2022 and December 20, 2022, the devolved unit made several requests for imprests amounting to millions.

The amounts include Sh9.9 million and Sh5.8 million listed as imprests. However, the devolved unit failed to highlight the beneficiaries of the imprests as well as the specific departments they are stationed.

The county government also requested per diem on different dates without indicating the beneficiaries and how many days they spent out. For instance, on December 15, 2022, the devolved unit sought for approvals to withdraw Sh7.8 million as per diems.

According to OCOB, the per diem rates that had been applied violated its circulars, while imprests amounting to Sh745, 000 were for activities done in the past.

The devolved unit also made another application on December 20, 2022 for an approval of Sh20.7 million as claims for some county officials.

A scrutiny by the OCOB, found out that some of the officers listed for the claims participated in different activities at the same time.

Another Sh29.7 million request by Bungoma County government was also rejected as a result of flaws in the application. "The schedule is incomplete. It is notable that the number of people attending activities and the number of days seems excessive with no explanation," reads the report in part.

The OCOB has also rejected ten requisitions made by Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja's for violating the law as well as not providing enough information on the need for the funds.

The amounts include Sh112.4 million that the devolved unit sought January 18, 2023 to enable it settle pending bills.
However, the devolved unit failed to provide a list of the pending bills and the payment plan for the 2022/2023 financial year.

A requisition of Sh9.2 million for an induction of the new County Executive Committee members has also been dismissed by OCOB as a duplication. The devolve unit had reportedly received a similar approval for the same request.

OCOB has also rejected a request for a withdrawal of Sh275 million for the car loan and mortgage request after the devolved unit classified it as development.

In North Eastern, OCOB has rejected requests from Wajir and Turkana counties for flouting government regulations.

In Wajir, OCOB rejected a request for Sh75 million for imprests.

In Turkana, a request for Sh150 million for the established county fund has also been rejected for violating the Public Finance Management (County Government regulations) 2015.

Samburu County government which made a request of Sh148 million for staff claims, will also have to wait a little longer after their request was rejected for failing to provide enough details about the activities. The devolved unit had also failed to indicate pending bills separately.

In Trans Nzoia County, a plan by the devolved unit in August last year to undertake an inauguration worth Sh12.5 million could have run into headwinds as reports by the OCOB indicates the request for the funds was rejected.

The office describes the request that was made on August 18, 2022 as "very extravagant".

A request for Sh170 million by Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika's government for car reimbursement claims has also been rejected by OCOB. The application was made early this year.

However, the devolved unit did not provide evidence of purchase of the vehicles and proof of ownership.

Another request for approval of Sh40.5 million listed as vendor payments has also been flagged by the OCOB for including several transfers to beneficiaries who were undisclosed.

A request by Uasin Gishu government for Sh22 million, was rejected on the grounds that it was wasteful. The requisition had been made under operations and maintainance.

Six requests that were made by Murang'a counties ranginging between Sh3.2 million and Sh20.9 million has also been rejected by the OCOB for various violations.

The requests flagged include Sh20.9 million for the pension fund. The OCOB has requested the devolved unit on details regarding why contributions were forwarded to the pension fund minus staff personal numbers.

The devolved unit also sought for approvals to withdraw Sh7.9 million for foreign travel without providing any documents on travel clearence. The request was rejected.

According to the OCOB, another request for claims for three who conducted interviews for two members of the county public service board appeared wasteful.

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