Governors accuse CPAIC of extortion, warn counties could close over cash crunch

Council of Governors (CoG) chair and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya. [File, Standard]

The Council of Governors (CoG) have accused Senate Public Accounts and Investments Committee (CPAIC) of revisiting what they term as outdated audit queries to extort governors.

In a statement issued by the council on Thursday, signed by the chair Governor Wycliffe Oparanya; the county chiefs have faulted the lawmakers for investigating financial queries dating back to 2015. According to the CoG, such incidents raise questions and depict that the lawmakers have sinister motives which warrant investigations.

CoG said: “It is unfortunate that some of the issues being raised by the Senate committee emanate from previous financial years dating back to 2015 which begs the question of where the Senate has been all along.”

“We hereby categorically state that Governors will not bow down to the extortionist nature of this County Public Accounts and Investments Senate Committee and will only appear virtually until COVID-19 pandemic is over and funds have been disbursed to County Governments. We call upon the EACC and DCI to investigate the County Public Accounts and Investments Committee of the Senate on this matter of extortion,” it added.

The outburst by the CoG comes just a day after the CPAIC, led by Kisii Senator Prof Sam Ongeri ordered Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai to arrest and produce before it Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria for snubbing summons thrice.

The committee wants the Murang’a County chief to be produced before it physically by September 10, to answer audit queries in three financial years from 2015 to 2018.

“The Committee, therefore, requests that you proceed to cause the arrest and production of Mwangi Wa Iria, the Governor of Murang’a County, before County Public Accounts & Investments Committee on Thursday, September 10, 2020, at the Senate Extended Chamber, Main Parliament Buildings at 10.00 am,” noted Ongeri in the letter sent to the IG.

Cash crunch

The governors have also lamented the stalemate at the Senate which has led to the delayed passing of the revenue bill hence making counties cash-starved.

The Oparanya said that the counties had resolved to close down in the next two weeks due to the cash crunch. According to him, many operations at the county government level have been affected, and hospitals which require medical personnel and equipment especially during the Covid-19 pandemic are not spared.

“It is unfortunate that County Governments are unable to even pay the salaries and allowances of our health workers who remain in the frontline to save the lives of Kenyans. In this regard, if the prevailing situation persists, effective Thursday, September 17, 2020, Counties will have no choice but to shut down. Therefore, all County Government services will not be available in the Counties,” he said in the statement.

“Consequently, we shall release all county employees to proceed on leave until an amicable solution on the issue is reached.”

Revenue bill impasse

The council said that the law stipulates that revenue should continue to be disbursed under a particular revenue formula until such a time that new one has been approved to replace it. In this regard, the CoG argues that the second revenue formula, which was used in previous fiscal years ought to be used until a new one has been passed.  They are therefore calling on the National Treasury to disburse funds to the counties to remedy the situation.

The council also accused the Senate of disregarding Supreme Court advisory which spells out legislative roles of Senate and National Assembly in approval of budgets. It is this role that the council warns senators that should they fail to fulfil it, then, a petitioner may file a suit to send them home.

“To this end, we hereby forewarn the Senate that a Petition for its dissolution can be initiated by any member of the public through the High Court as provided for under Article 258 of the Constitution,” CoG said.

Senators have been in and deadlock over the preferable revenue sharing formula. Voting on the third basis formula, endorsed by President Uhuru Kenyatta, and fronted by the Majority Whip Senator Irungu Kangata, have been postponed severally over backlash.

The formula has been judged by a section of senators as disadvantaging counties with lower population, while adding cash to the accounts of more populous counties, hence creating disparity.