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The unending Kiambu crisis as former chief finance officers 'spills the beans'

Immediate former Kiambu County Finance Chief Officer Ms Faith Njeri Harrison during a press conference at a Kiambu Hotel. [Kamau Maichuhie/Standard]

The row pitting Governor Ferdinand Waititu and his former Chief Finance Officer Faith Njeri Harrison took a new dimension yesterday after the latter lifted the lid on alleged illegalities in the county.

Ms Njeri came out for the first time since leaving office and addressed journalists. She made damning allegations against the county administration.

Njeri said together with other senior officials in the Finance department, they chose to resign after it became impossible to work.

“The department is the custodian of public properties, but it is sad to report that many public utilities, houses and quarries have been transferred to individuals, some of whom are relatives or people associated with the county leadership,” she said.

The former officer alleged that some houses in Kamenu and near Blue Post Hotel in Thika were among those that had been transferred to individuals, with some public parcels in the county already sold.

Njeri also accused the county leadership of bypassing the County Public Service Board (CPSB) in the recruitment of staff by employing casuals verbally despite the county treasury issuing numerous circulars, warning against any more recruitment.

“The current wage bill is way beyond 35 per cent recorded by Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC). Our warning has not been heeded and thousands of causals have been engaged verbally as they do not have appointment letters,” she said.

In the budget tabled in the assembly last week by the vice-chairperson of the Budget and Appropriation Committee Nduta Muongi, out of the Sh15.6 billion budget, Sh10.1 billion, representing 65 per cent will go to recurrent expenditure, while Sh5.4 billion, representing 35 per cent, will go to development.

The former chief officer also alleged that revenue collection officers and enforcement officers were casual workers who had been hired illegally as they lacked appointment letters and were not hired through the CPSB.

“We currently have people who are not employees of the county collecting revenue. Things are really bad and something needs to be done to salvage it,” she said.

Njeri further claimed the Procurement department had been working at the whims of the county leadership, failure to which the workers were threatened with sacking or transfers to other departments

“Almost all the tenders in the county are awarded to the people associated with the county leadership. Procurement department has no independence and is dictated upon on who to award tenders,” she said.

She also disclosed that many other tenders had been awarded to MCAs in order to suppress the assembly’s oversight role.

The former chief officer claimed a top county official got upset after the finance department refused to pay pending bills of some suppliers who he preferred to be prioritised.

She said they would not agree to pay pending bills of suppliers who the top county official preferred since there were some contractors who did business with the county in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and who had not been paid.

Njeri said the county currently has pending bills worth Sh1.8 billion, with Sh400 million worth of bills already flagged by the Auditor General as fake.

She said they resigned since they could not work under such environment where the independence of the department was not guaranteed.

Senior staff in the Finance department on Monday resigned just two weeks after being reinstated by Governor Waititu.

Njeri tendered her resignation alongside that of the director of accounting services, deputy director of accounting services, and three accountants.

She, together with four senior accountants and a procurement officer, had last month resigned citing disagreements with the governor over payment of pending bills.

They were later reinstated by the governor on condition that the Finance department would be let to work freely without interference.

The former chief officer had at the time accused the governor of micro-managing the department.

Waititu has already replaced her.

In a letter dated July 1, the governor appointed William Nyanjui Kimani, who was the chief officer at the department of Administration as the new chief officer in-charge of Finance.

Njeri said she was ready to share documents detailing the ills committed in the county with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

Yesterday, efforts to get a comment from the governor were futile, as he declined to pick our calls or reply to our text messages.

However, while speaking in Limuru on Wednesday, Waititu maintained that he had made changes in the department to "bring about efficiency and transparency".

Pending bills

He accused the former team of paying pending bills selectively.

“It is true I have made changes in the Finance department to enhance efficiency and transparency. The other team was not doing their job the way it should be done. We want to ensure the new team does a good job by ensuring all deserving pending bills are paid,” he said.

The governor urged all suppliers owed by the county to make claims.

“We, however, know that according to the report by the Auditor General released recently, half of the pending bills are fake,” he said.

The Budget Committee in the assembly last week made a policy recommendation where it ordered the Executive to freeze any further staff recruitment to keep the wage bill within the parameters provided by Public Finance Management Act (2012).