Mbarire throws Wambora under the bus over Sh1.6b pending bills

Embu Governor Cecil Mbarire during the bipartisan talks briefing at Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi on October 13, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Embu Governor Cecily Mbarire has blamed her predecessor Martin Wambora over what she termed suspicious Sh1.6 billion pending bills. 

Mbarire who appeared before the Senate County Public Accounts Committee in Nairobi revealed that she inherited pending bills worth Sh2.3 billion and only Sh705 million were found to be eligible. 

The governor told the committee chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang that the authenticity of Sh1.6 billion could not be verified terming them fictiuos and out to defraud the people of Embu. 

“I would like to inform this committee that the pending bills verification committee found that out of the Sh2.3 billion that we inherited from the past regime only Sh705 million are eligible,” said Mbarire. 

She said that having received two reports on pending bills she formed a taskforce to audit what was declared during handing over which found other claims outside those captured in the report by the assumption of office committee. 

Mbarire informed the committee that there were several anomalies found by the committee with undisclosed Sh232 million bills established as well as Sh170 million in repeated bills, some repeated twice or three times. 

She said the committee found out that some of the projects captured in the pending bills had no contractual timelines as well as local purchase order besides not having budgetary provisions. 

“The pending bills committee found out budgets were formalised after doing projects, no termination clauses existed in the contracts making it difficult to get rid of a contractor who has been doing a project for four years not completing it,” said Mbarire. 

The governor told the committee that her first assignment on assuming office, was to clear Sh529 million pending bills including a Kenya Medical Supply Agency debt and staff deductions bringing the pending bills down to Sh1.6 billion. 

Mbarire said that of the remainder, Sh705.2 million, representing 42.49 per cent, were eligible for settlement while the ineligible amounted to Sh954.38 million wondering whether her administration should honour what was clearly fraudulent. 

She noted that the ineligible bills included Sh112 million incomplete works on site, Sh422 million projects not supported by any relevant documents and missing procurement files as well as Sh419 million projects that were either abandoned, not started or partial invoices raised but works on site did not support the same. 

Kajwang said had the Sh2.3 billion pending bills been paid, then the county government would be declared technically insolvent since it has a budget of about Sh5.6 billion where Sh2.7 billion goes to personnel emoluments. 

“From what we are seeing here Embu county would be technically insolvent if the pending bills being asked for are paid for since they are half of the Sh5.6 billion allocated to the county by the exchequer,” he said. 

The Homa Bay senator said that the committee had noted with concern that outgoing governors and their officers inflated the pending bills register across the county terming it as a scheme to defraud taxpayers. 

Mbarire called on the committee to push for a policy to have the office of the Auditor General to work with county governments in determining the eligibility of the pending bills to establish those that are genuine to be paid. 

The governor said if all the counties go by the pending bills as they are required by the Controller of Budget, then they will be left with no room to carry out development projects. 

“To be very honest if counties are to pay all the pending bills that they are asked to pay some of which are fictitious then they will have nothing to carry out development projects,” said Mbarire. 

She told the committee that her administration inherited Sh532.6 million unremitted staff deductions but they have managed to pay Sh372 million in the current fiscal year leaving a balance of Sh160.36 million. 

Kajwang told the governor that it was clear that the county had deducted money from employees but the administration had not remitted the same terming an attempt to defraud employees which is unacceptable. 

The Wambora administration was also put on the spot for paying Sh87.7 million as compensation of employees through a manual payroll system outside the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Database (IPPD) System prescribed by the National Treasury. 

The county was put to task over Sh59 million incurred on compensation of employees without approved supplementary estimates and recruiting unqualified staff who were paid salaries and wages totaling Sh7.5 million during the year under review. 

Wambora's regime was accused of paying Sh2.7 million to county assembly staff and Members of County Assembly to finalise supplementary budget yet this was supposed to be done by the assembly.