Defence Principal Secretary Patrick Mariru has come under fire from lawmakers over failure by the ministry to pay Sh1.8 billion court awards.
Appearing before the National Assembly Public Accounts Committee on Monday, the PS was asked to explain the delayed settlement of the awards which arose from medical claims, injury and unlawful dismissal of soldiers and staff claims, arbitration awards as well as road traffic offences.
The committee led by Nominated MP John Mbadi took issue with the decision by the ministry to prioritise clearance of pending bills amounting to Sh1.75 billion for the financial year 2022/23 and failure to make a provision for the court awards.
The committee also interpreted the failure by the ministry to provide names of beneficiaries, the nature of cases, and how they arose as a sign that it was not intent on settling the same.
“This committee would like to understand how we ended up with such bills and why there is a delay in payments?” posed Mbadi, who further directed the PS to furnish the committee with relevant documents.
Soy MP David Kiplagat pressed Mariru for the documents claiming such awards had previously been used to siphon public funds.
“There is a lot of hemorrhage of funds when it comes to these court awards. The PS has to provide the list of the awards so that we can look after the interests of our soldiers whose claims are yet to be paid,” said Kiplagat.
Gatundu South MP Gabriel Kagombe wondered why the ministry prioritised pending bills and not the court awards.
PS Mariru, however, told the committee the ministry had made it a practice to expeditiously settle claims of soldiers who get injured in line of duty.
“We are very careful about claims by our soldiers who get injured in line of duty. There is an internal policy in place that ensures that affected soldiers are compensated,” he said. The PS blamed inadequate funds for the ministry’s inability to pay court awards.