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Governors hard-pressed to explain use of Covid-19 funds

By Josphat Thiong’o | May 13th 2021
Tana River Governor Dhadho Godhana when he appeared before the Senate County Public Accounts and Investment Committee (CPAIC) over audit queries at Parliament [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Tana River Governor Dhadho Godhana and his Lamu counterpart Fahim Twaha were put to task to explain the expenditure of Covid-19 funds.

The Senate Health committee yesterday grilled the duo over delay to utilise emergency Covid-19 funds released last June. The committee is probing expenditure of funds granted to the 47 counties last year following audit queries by the office of the Auditor-General.

Mr Godhana was hard-pressed to explain why his administration had not utilised Sh33.6 million which was part of a conditional grant from the national government and a further Sh6.1 million from Danida.

The committee also asked the Tana River governor to shed light on non-payment of 63 frontline health workers despite the county receiving Sh22.5 million to cater for their allowances. The Auditor General’s report also showed that an officer was overpaid after receiving arrears of Sh75,490 instead of Sh60,000.

The Fred Outa-led committee further faulted Godhana for irregularity in the expenditure of the county’s own funds amounting to Sh24.8 million.

“There was irregular management of cash imprest and there was no formal request or formal approval warrants for Sh6.8 million. The county also failed to issue a professional opinion for tender for renovation of isolation ward awarded to Tanaquick trader Ltd at Sh132,452,” stated the report.

Godhana was also put to task over alleged direct procurement without approval for a Sh6.69 million tender awarded to Momborax, the purchase of pharmaceuticals without a contract, and unsigned evaluation minutes for a tender worth Sh5.5 million awarded to Farmer Trade Ltd.

However, the governor said the Danida funds had not been spent by the time the audit was carried out since the second supplementary budget for the mitigation of Covid-19 was passed on June 29, 2020, a day to closure of the financial year.

He said the funds, including the conditional grant, were carried forward to the next financial year and disbursements to health facilities were made in September 2020.

“Since health facilities had adjusted their budgets during the preparation of their annual work plan to include donor funding to support operations and maintenance, the facilities had an enhanced resource envelope to carter for Covid-19 related response. The funds were however later utilised according to our budget estimates,” Godhana noted.

He said the payments to health workers were made and the over payment would be corrected.

“We paid Sh22.2 million to health workers and not the approved amount of Sh22.5 million approved by SRC because it does not necessarily have to be exhausted,” he said.

On imprest, he noted there was no discrepancy since his officers made formal requests on diverse dates through internal memos and imprest warrants were duly approved by the accounting officer and AIE holders.

Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina, however, accused Godhana of alleged forgery after the Auditor General showed that the imprest warrants were written after the audit report.

“I am concerned about the information that has been presented since it amounts to forgery. I am going to presume that maybe it’s an oversight, but you must correct this with the auditors,” he said.

The chair ruled that the responses given by the governor were unsatisfactory and gave him seven days to submit more documents.

On his part, Governor Twaha blamed slow procurement processes on delay to utilise Sh13.65 million conditional grant from the national government and a further Sh3.9 million from Danida by the time of audit.

“Delay was due to the time the money reached our account. The funds were received in June thus the money was factored in the next financial year’s budget, which took time to be approved. The funds were pushed to 2020/2021 supplementary budget,” he said.

This response did not go down well with the committee.

“If it was an emergency fund, then there should not have been any delay,” said Senator Beth Mugo.

“Interesting that funds reached your account in June but not spent by December. Was there then really need to send the funds because it seems there was no emergency in Lamu,” posed Ledama.

Twaha explained that before receiving the emergency funds, Lamu had budgeted for disaster response to drought and floods, among others.

“We had spent from our own emergency funds before the grant by the national government. In Lamu we have not had many cases of Covid-19 so we spent money on preventive measures such as sanitisers from Kemri, bought chlorine to sterilise public spaces, and got our TVETS to manufacture masks so when these funds came we had already done what needed to be done,” he said.

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