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Governors Nyong’o, Mohamud grilled over Covid-19 funds use

By Brian Otieno | April 30th 2021
Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o and his embattled Wajir counterpart Mohamed Mohamud were on Friday put on the spot over expenditure of Covid-19 related funds.

A Senate committee investigating the Sh4 billion scandal involving the 47 counties put the pair to task to shed light on audit queries raised by Auditor General Nancy Gathungu in a special audit report.

In an earlier sitting, Prof Nyong’o was pressed to explain why his county banked conditional grants from the national government worth Sh159 million meant for Covid-19 mitigation measures together with money from other sources.

A suggestion by the county that part of the money may have been channelled to matters unrelated to Covid-19 raised eyebrows among members of Senate’s Health Committee chaired by Trans Nzoia Senator Michael Mbito.

This was after Nominated Senator Beth Mugo raised the red flag on the fact that only Sh50 million of the entire amount was sent to the said account.  

“On the Sh50 million… we were not going to put Sh150 million to the account yet we had other pressing needs. We also had challenges of cash flow and delayed disbursements. We had to make rational needs, prudence required we transfer as and when there was a need,” said Kisumu Finance County Executive Member George Okong’o.

This money was meant for Covid-19. The governor should provide details on how it was utilised,” charged Mugo.

In her investigations, the Auditor found the money had been factored into Kisumu County’s Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund.

This was contrary to Ministry of Health guidelines sent to the Council of Governors (CoG) that required counties to bank the grant in a special purpose account with the State Bank of Mauritius.

“It was established that the conditional grant from the national government was among the funds managed under the Kisumu County Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund,” read the AG’s special audit report.

In the report, the AG said that the county’s emergency fund comprised funds worth Sh212 million.

“What prompted the county to lump the money together… why was it difficult to follow the legal framework?” posed Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri.

While admitting fault, Kisumu County officials said the MoH guidelines were issued after the county had set up an emergency account. However, Nyong’o said no money was lost.

“We moved fast to set up an account for Covid-19 emergency funds managed by a committee. There was no legal framework in place before the guidelines were issued. We did the right thing by coming up with the relevant legislation through our county assembly in the absence of the guidelines,” said Nyong’o.

Kisumu Senator Fred Outa raised concern over a Sh200 million projected budget for Covid-19 that the county had said it would avail.

“A budget is just a budget and when you make one it doesn’t mean that you have the money with you… you can have a budget but fail to meet the set target,” said Nyong’o.

Wajir Governor Mohamud was granted seven days to present proof that his county had formulated work and procurement plans to guide the expenditure of Sh112.8 million the county received from the national government to combat Covid-19.

This was after county officials who were grilled by the committee were incoherent in their responses and mixed up issues. “We are not interested in background issues. We just want to know how you spent the Sh112 million,” said Wajir Senator Abdullahi Ali.

The confusion split to a query on the county’s failure to list items worth Sh128 million that it would procure in a procurement plan. “A detailed breakdown of goods and services were captured in the work plan,” said the county’s deputy director of planning Abdi Abdullahi. But officials from the AG’s office faulted the response.

The Wajir county chief, through his officials, further admitted to inconsistencies in their bookkeeping.

“You have a lot to do. You are responsible because Kenyans have tasked you with their money… what the auditors have highlighted has not been very good,” said Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina.

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