Orwoba wants Assets agency management to step aside over staff 'victimisation'

Senator  Gloria Orwoba  during a previous Senate Committee meeting. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Nominated Senator Gloria Orwoba has called for action against senior officials at the Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority (UFAA).

Orwoba said action should be taken against the two officials after they allegedly sacked two managers who leaked internal information.

The senator said the two, Information and  Communication Technology (ICT) Manager and the Finance Manager were dismissed following her petition to the Senate to launch an investigation into the alleged misuse of billions of shillings worth of unclaimed assets held by the State following years of rising concerns over the reunification of the assets with their rightful beneficiaries.

She said the reason given for the dismissals was unfair as they were based on incorrect Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) assigned to functions outside their departments, indicating flawed evaluation processes.

Orwoba demanded for the stepping aside of the UFAA Chief Executive Officer John Mwangi  to allow the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the alleged misappropriation of funds surrendered to it by various institutions, mostly those left behind by deceased persons with financial and other institutions,  including idle cash, shares and dividends .

“Targeting the Head of Finance and Head of ICT raises suspicions of record manipulation, necessitating immediate action to uphold the Authority's integrity,” Orwoba said in a statement.

She said the dismissed managers say there were discrepancies in the management's handling of contracts and performance appraisals.

“The termination of contracts for certain staff members and discrepancies in performance evaluations have raised serious concerns about fairness and adherence to government policies,” said Orwoba.

She added, “The issue of uncollected funds identified by auditors contracted by the UFAA since 2017, amounting to over Sh10 billion, has divided the board. Some members, led by the Chairman of the Audit and Risk Committee, demand a thorough investigation, while others, led by the Board Chairman, defend the CEO. Audit reports have underscored their concern on the uncollected funds.”

Orwoba said the Finance and Human Resource Committee had recommended contract renewal for the affected staff, but Board chairman Dr Kigo Njenga allegedly used his casting vote to veto the decision.

One member of the FHRC committee voted against the decision without providing reasons.

She said there is need for urgent action to fully investigate the unclaimed funds since they rightfully belong to Kenyans.

Early this month, Orwoba told the Senate that the Sh10 billion suspected to have been misappropriated includes about Sh500 million in what she termed as questionable auditing fees which cannot be accounted for.

She consequently asked the Senate to formally investigate the management of UFAA.

The agency has been struggling to reconcile the growing haul of unclaimed assets to its legitimate owners according to recent State-backed Auditor General reports.

Orwoba reckons the probe is important to protect the assets of the dead and the future of next of kin.

“Mr Speaker, Sir, I rise, pursuant to Standing Order 53 (1), to seek a Statement from the Standing Committee on Finance and Budget on alleged financial improprieties at the Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority (UFAA),” she said on the floor of the Senate.

“In the Statement, the Committee should establish the total amount of funds that have been remitted to the Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority (UPAA) over the last five (5) years and investigate discrepancies regarding unclaimed funds amounting to Sh10 billion that cannot be accounted for, given that only Sh1.5 billion out of Sh11.5 billion has been accounted for, and state any measures the Board has taken against the Management in the supervision of the audits,” she said.

She also wants the Senate Finance Committee to establish why “UFAA incurred expenses of over Sh500 million for substandard audit services undertaken, stating the procedure used to procure the services of the audit firms and the role played by the UFAA Management in supervising these audits.”

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