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Report: How MCAs looted millions in ghost sittings

NYANZA
By Harold Odhiambo | December 12th 2019

Kisumu County Assembly Speaker Onyango Oloo (right) and one of the assembly clerks Nelco Sagwe during a sitting on September 26, 2018, before MCAs became rowdy. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Taxpayers have lost millions of shillings through questionable payments to Kisumu County Assembly officials.

A report of the Auditor General for the period 2018/2019 has raised suspicions over Sh10.4 million honorarium allowances paid to assembly staff and MCAs for the budget-making process.

Ousted Speaker Onyango Oloo pocketed the highest amount at Sh1.2 million while others got between Sh40,000 and Sh400,000, with auditors noting that the payments contravened the law.

“Audit verification of sampled vouchers reveals a systematic payment of “honorarium” allowances during the preparation of the budget for 2018/2019. It could not be ascertained under which SRC circular the payment was made,” read the report in part.

Fictitious sittings

It has also emerged that the House leadership authorised payments to some MCAs for fictitious sittings, which cost the taxpayer Sh11.1 million.

"Included in the payroll is a payment to members of the county assembly for committee sittings. There were no minutes provided to prove the meetings took place," read the report in part.

The documents including fresh audit reports by the Kenya National Audit Office show a series of questionable financial transactions from the assembly’s coffers.

Some of the financial dealings are already subject of investigations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC). Last week, the commission gave the county assembly until yesterday to submit the relevant documents in relation to the payments under scrutiny.

This comes even as both the former regime led by ousted Speaker Oloo and the current acting speaker Elisha Oraro absolved themselves from blame.

According to the Auditor General's report dated November 2019, assembly staff pocketed hundreds of thousands of shillings as entertainment allowance while some personal assistants have been pocketing Sh15,000 each for meal allowances.

Settled in full

The documents also indicate that some staff pocketed Sh30,000 to Sh200,000 monthly as entertainment allowance between July 2018 and July 2019.

Yesterday, the former speaker defended the payments, saying they were done in accordance with the law.

“I received the highest amount because it was calculated according to the gross salary and I had also requested that mine be settled in full while other officers did not receive theirs in full,” said Oloo.

Last week, the EACC asked the County Assembly to provide details of the payments.

The report also indicates that a number of services including air travels were not obtained through competitive bidding. It shows that between June 2018 and April 2019, some Sh7.5 million was paid to a travel agency for air tickets and travel costs. Another Sh2.5 million was paid to a consultant through an advocate while another Sh5.4 million was paid to an unqualified supplier.

Detectives are also probing a Sh14,000 allowance which was paid to all MCAs on April 25, this year. Other assembly staff also pocketed the same amount on December 18, 2018.

The county assembly also paid huge amounts of money to various suppliers amounting to Sh7.7 million through several cheques issued between September 9, 2018, and June, this year without using the Ifmis system.

According to auditors, the payments could not be verified and contravene public service guidelines.

A decision to rent offices that the assembly has never used has also raised eyebrows. According to documents seen by The Standard, the contract has now attracted Sh19.2 million even as the building continues to lie idle.

The county assembly has been paying Sh1.2 million per month for the three floors they leased but are yet to move in, more than 16 months since they obtained the lease.

EACC is also investigating seven officials at the assembly and has already requested for their personal documents. In a letter dated December 2, EACC Western Region deputy director Aura Chibole directed the clerk to provide the payroll of all staff as well as payments made to members during the budget-making process.

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