Senate seeks to starve counties of funds if governors snub summons

A previous joint Parliamentary sitting. [File, Standard]

A motion that intends to address the persistent snub of summons by committees will be tabled before the Senate.

Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang said that some Cabinet Secretaries and governors have skipped Senate committees several times giving flimsy reasons since they know that the much that can be done is being fined Sh500,000 which might be petty cash to them.

Kajwang who addressed Journalists at Parliament Buildings in Nairobi, yesterday said that failure to appear before Parliament by witnesses should be treated similar to contempt of court since CSs and governors are accountable to citizens

“We want Cabinet Secretaries and governors who fail to appear before Parliament whenever called upon to know that we are not going to allow that to continue, that is why I will be tabling a motion before the Senate to address the gaps that enable this official to escape scrutiny,” said Kajwang.

The Senate County Public Accounts Committee Chairman cited Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja who had failed to appear before several parliamentary committees and even skipped on Monday to answer audit queries.

Kajwang said that Sakaja was supposed to explain how Sh76 billion had been spent by Nairobi county government in the financial years 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 but he instead sent a last minute letter saying that he had travelled outside the country.

The senator also sought to have the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman Bishop David Oginde explain why an officer attached to his committee had been withdrawn without a replacement.

Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna wondered why  Governor Sakaja has refused to honour summons yet his counterparts from far flung areas find time to appear before the committee.

“I am very disappointed that the Nairobi Governor has refused to appear before various parliamentary committees whenever called upon, he was supposed to tell us how the county spent Sh76 billion between 2020 and 2022 but unfortunately he chose to skip the invite to appear,” said Sifuna.

The senator said that Nairobi county was leading in pending bills at Sh107 billion and having served as a Nominated MP and Nairobi Senator, Sakaja ought to show a good example to other governors since he understands how Parliament operates.

Sifuna said that the best way to deal with the governor is to seek the Controller of Budget to stop the shareable revenue allocation to the county so that the leadership can answer audit queries whenever called upon by the Senate.

Kisii Senator Richard Onyonka called for the matter to be escalated to the floor of the House for a drastic decision to be taken since being accountable and transparent to Parliament must take precedence at all times and witnesses failing to appear due to flimsy reasons should not be entertained.

“We cannot have Cabinet Secretaries and governors deliberating avoiding to appear before Parliament since they know the much that can be done is being fined Sh500,000 which some can even pay several times as long as they avoid appearing before Parliament which is not acceptable,” said Onyonka.

Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dullo said that counties that do not want to be held accountable for the billions of shillings allocated to them should have their funds withheld.

Nyandarua Senator John Methu said that a strong deterrence measure needs to be adopted by Parliament since in the past the Inspector General of Police has been directed to arrest and present some truant witnesses before the House which has not happened due to some legal loopholes.

Nominated Senator Mariam Omar said that they need to adopt a proposal like having governors who deliberately fail to appear before the Senate for more than six times barred from vying in subsequent elections to serve as a lesson to others.

The senators agreed that due to the persistent public finance management breeches in Nairobi county, the Controller of Budget needs to stop the allocation of shareable revenue until the matter is addressed.

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