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Governors take Senate to court amid extortion claims in probe

COUNTIES
By Josphat Thiong’o | October 28th 2021

 

County Public Accounts and Investment Committee (CPAIC) member Kimani Wamatangi, during a meeting with Nandi Governor Stephen Sang in Nairobi on Thursday, June 3, 2021. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Senators and governors are at loggerheads once again over a probe on multi-billion-shilling infrastructure projects in counties.

Senate will appeal a court order barring the Transport committee from grilling governors in regard to counties revenue allocation by the national government and conditional allocations.

The bone of contention is expenditure of Sh9 billion from World Bank -under the Kenya Urban Support Programme, the Equitable share from the national government and the Sh17 billion Roads Maintenance Levy Fund (RMLF) by counties that has seen governors obtain an injunction against Senate.

High Court judge Hedwig Ong’udi ruled in favour of the Council of Governors (CoG) in the case against the Senate, on alleged violation and infringement of the Constitution in regard to the County Government Act, the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act to probe the county chiefs.

Governors filed the case under certificate of urgency, through CoG counsel Peter Wanyama.

On October 22, the judge restrained Senate from investigating the expenditure of the counties contained in the Auditor General Nancy Gathungu reports.

Senate was yet to file response.

“Conservatory orders be issued restraining the Senate from considering the report of the Auditor General on for Roads Maintenance Levy Fund (RMLF) in the financial years 2018/2019, 2019/2020 and the World Bank –Kenya Urban Support Programme for the financial years 2018/2019 and 2019/2020,” read the order in part.

Senate Majority Whip and Transport committee chairman Kimani Wamatangi (Kiambu) said: “We are going to court on Thursday (today) to set the record straight. The governors misled the court that inquiry is on the audit reports, this is not the case. We are mandated to oversight all funds towards roads and infrastructure development in counties.”

Mr Wamatangi said the checks by the County Public Accounts and Investment Committee is not enough.

Wanyama wrote to the Senate, through Clerk Jeremiah Nyegenye, protesting what he termed “extortionist behaviour” and alleged threats from the Transport committee.

He said he will institute contempt of court proceedings against the Clerk of the Senate, and Wamatangi and the other members of the Standing Committee on Roads and Transportation should they violate the court order.

“Please note that the High Court has issued injunctive orders to stop the Senate, especially the committee on roads and transport, from considering the Audit report from the Road Maintenance Levy Fund for the financial year 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 and that of the Word Bank Kenya Urban Support Programme for the financial years 2018/2019 to 2020/2021,” read the letter in part.

The letter was copied to Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai and acting CoG CEO Mary Mwiti.

The lawyer said CoG was concerned by the continued summons by the Wamatangi-led committee despite the matter having been considered by the Senate’s Public Accounts Committee.

He questioned why the Kiambu senator was pushing the matter to be considered by his committee yet he had the powers to sit in and participate in the deliberations of the Senates’ Public Accounts Committee.

“Therefore, our client reads bad faith and ill-motive in the summons, for this reason, our client has instructed us to specifically request that you ask Paul Wamatangi to stop making contacts with governors and threatening them with summons if they don’t honour his extortionist financial demands,” stated Wanyama.

“Governors have a constitutional obligation to protect public funds and will not fall for Hon Wamatangi’s underhand requests and unlawful summons,” he added.

But the senator accused governors of trying to shield themselves from accountability of Sh400 billion through restraining orders and hiding behind CoG.

“The biggest outcry across the country if you go to the counties is stalled or ghost projects, especially roads and markets. The governors do not want to be audited,” said Wamatangi.

He further opined that the order was obtained to disrupt or delay the inquiry by Senate. The senator claimed that governors do not want to be held accountable for the funds appropriated to counties since 2013.

“The county budgets factor in these expenditures. World Bank has complained over failure to report and account for the expenditure and governors do not want the necessary oversight. Most of the pending Bills in the counties are about these expenditures,” he said.

Wamatangi disclosed that the governors moved to court after their attempt to seek Speaker Ken Lusaka’s intervention flopped.

“They have been seeking to defer these meetings, forcing us to issue summons as provided for in Article 125 of the Constitution. We came up with a schedule and even published in the local dailies yet they have disobeyed the same,” said the senator.

“They want to leave a trail of unchecked expenditures, especially the second term governors. We are inviting individual governors not CoG as counties receive close to Sh100 billion yearly for projects,” he said.

When contacted, Lusaka indicated that he was out of the country but his office would address the matter.

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