Suppliers to wait longer as county bosses audit Sh153b pending bills

COG Chair Ann Waiguru consults with her Tharaka Nithi counterpart Muthomi Njuki during the governors' retreat in Naivasha. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

Contractors and suppliers of goods and services to counties face a longer wait for their billions of shillings as governors form committees to scrutinise the pending bills before payment can start.

Counties collectively owed suppliers and contractors Sh153.02 billion by the end of June 2022, but the settlement of the amount now lies in the hands of pending bills verification and audit taskforces.

Governors have since last month been forming taskforces which are expected to comb through massive records and even physically inspect the projects done or goods supplied before payment can be done.

Machakos, Turkana, Trans Nzoia and Kitui governors have become the latest county chiefs to gazette pending bills verification committees.

Other counties that have taken this route include Kilifi, Nyandarua, Bungoma, Kericho and Murang'a even as many contractors and suppliers cry foul over mounting loan defaults as they wait for their money.

The committees, with membership of between seven and 15 members are expected to scrutinise all the alleged pending bills and recommend to governors the ones that are genuine.

The verification process will involve asking all the suppliers and contractors claiming to be owed by the counties to submit claims to the committee for consideration.

The committees will review the bills, record descriptions of the works done, goods supplied or services given and the dates, including exact locations. This will be followed by obtaining evidence of the delivery of goods or performance of the services and then quantifying and evaluating the value for money of the work done, goods delivered, or services given.

The new county bosses now face the test of cleaning the pending bills' mess inherited from their predecessors as well as actualising the promises they made to the electorate before the August 9 polls.

Verification process

Similar scrutiny was undertaken in 2019 after an order from the now-retired President Uhuru Kenyatta. The then Auditor General Edward Ouko revealed that the verification process unearthed Sh35 billion in pending bills that were either fake or not meeting the threshold for payment.

This means suppliers and contractors could be in for another back and forth with some governors already doubting the validity of the latest stock of pending bills.

Murang'a Governor Irungu Kang'ata in September told KTN News in an interview that about Sh1.8 billion of the over Sh2 billion pending bills in his county could be fake.

"In the verification process, the only bills that have been claimed are worth Sh900 million. And upon further scrutiny, I am sure that the figure will go down," he said.

Turkana County, which has put up a nine-member committee with four people on the secretariat will also be checking whether there was fraud.

"The taskforce will identify cases where there may have been corrupt, fraudulent and false claims against the county government and make appropriate recommendations to the relevant government/State departments," reads the scope of work in part.

Fifteen out of the 18 counties that were owing suppliers and contractors at least Sh1 billion by end of June are all now under new governors.Nairobi County alone had pending bills amounting to Sh99.06 billion at the end of June this year, according to data from the office of Controller of Budget.

Kiambu, Mombasa, Wajir and Tran Nzoia counties - all with new governors - close the list of top five counties with the highest pending bills at Sh5.87 billion, Sh5.23 billion, Sh3.47 billion and Sh2.86 billion respectively.

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