Senate raises concerns over continued inefficiency of IFMIS

Senate in session during the election of the Senate Deputy Speaker of the senate at the Senate chambers in Nairobi, June 2, 2020 [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Eighteen years since its advent, the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS), used in government to enhance transparency and accountable, remains inefficient.

Senators were taken aback when Auditor General Nancy Gathungu and Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o said the system is prone to “fraud, error and non-disclosure of revenue.

Appearing before the Senate Finance and Budget committee chaired by Kirinyaga Senator Charles Kibiru, the two officials said system failures are still evident nearly two decades after the system was introduced.

This comes at a time national and county officials have cried foul over persistent system failure, especially towards the end of the financial year when the National Treasury releases funds.

“Ifmis does not report on project implementation status and on non-financial performance. It also experiences frequent down times, especially during the close of the financial year, indicating that this may be done deliberately to hide information from us,” said Ms Gathungu.

The system’s failure to run in real-time and frequent downtime has created a headache for counties leading to discrepancies between the data captured in Ifmis and data generated by counties through work plans.

“There are challenges in uploading and transmitting payments to Internet Banking (IB) as a result of downtime on either side of systems. This often leads to transactions not appearing on the Internet Banking side for payment,” said Laikipia County Ndiritu Muriithi, who is also the Council of Governors Finance committee chairman.

The auditor noted that the system carries quite a number of weaknesses in  its modules, opening avenues where users can exploit system controls by choosing which suppliers to pay. The auditor noted that the loopholes also allow users to backdate transactions thus reducing the validity of real-time balances.

“Off-Ifmis transactions/expenditures are not recorded in Ifmis rendering financial statements inaccurate. This has been observed over the years, where entities process transactions off Ifmis,” said Ms Gathungu.

She added, “Ifmis is a robust and reliable system if used well.”

Ms Nyakang’o pointed out how the system allows capture and negative budget amounts, negative commitments and negative expenditure leading to poor reports that don’t make sense.

“There is no closure time for posting past transactions. This implies that financial reports keep on changing and therefore affect the credibility of reporting,” said the Controller of Budget.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr poked holes in the rationale of holding onto a system that has failed to deliver its mandate for more than a decade. The senator suggested that it is time to do away with it and find a better method of financial management.

“If we have a system that can’t manage transactions and funds, let’s do away with it. Why is this country tied to this system?” posed Kilonzo Jnr.

The two officials failed to accurately state the office responsible for Ifmis after Kilonzo Jnr asked why the system cannot be abandoned.