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Wambora on spot for asking AG to halt Covid funds probe

POLITICS
By Grace Nganga | June 2nd 2021

Council of Governors chairperson Martin Wambora when he visited Mombasa County on May 19, 2021.[Kelvin Karani, Standard]

Embu Governor Martin Wambora has found himself on the receiving end of a Senate committee after admitting to having instructed the Auditor General to halt an audit of Covid funds expenditure.

The Council of Governors (CoG) chairman told the committee members after a representative from the Auditor General’s office was a no show, the meeting was postponed.

Members failed to understand why the AG was not present despite owning the report. The governor was appearing before the Senate standing committee on health probing how his administration spent Sh153 million without work plans, budget or procurement plans for the pandemic.

Wambora told the committee chaired by Trans Nzoia Senator Michael Mbito that during a CoG meeting last week, he wrote to the AG, and the decision was agreed “because we are very busy with the Senate and that letter to the AG was delivered.”

The chair said governors were concerned on why the audit is ongoing yet the issue has already been audited by three teams.

"The AG, the Ministry of Health and National Treasury have all done the audit. We told them to now focus and concentrate on the Senate hearings,” he said, which did not settle well with members.

“The AG was directed by this committee to carry out the audit so it was wrong for the CoG to purport to have the mandate of oversight. This is a preview of the Senate, your letter will not help in any way because we are the ones who oversight you,” said Narok Senator Ole Kina Ledama.

He added “you cannot direct auditors not to carry out their duties.”

Wajir Senator Ali Abdullahi could not understand why Wambora was giving instructions to the Auditor-General's office.

“I find this very unfortunate. I believe the governor knows better than what he is saying. That is not his business he should not even bother to say this. We need to look into this matter. Governors cannot interfere with the works of other institutions,” he said.

Nominated Senator Mary Seneta said everyone must be accountable for how they spend public money. “This is out of order. What they receive is taxpayer's money and there is no way they can say they are not accountable. They have no right to use taxpayer’s money without being audited. On what ground is he telling the AG not to perform their duties?” she posed.

When this got heated, however, Wambora changed his statement. “It is good I clarify the issue was not about Covid as such, but pending bills. What is happening is that the same documents we are using to present our case at the Senate, are the same that the AG wants,” said Wambora.

Wambora was to answer concerns by the AG, which had noted that there was no evidence provided on the establishment and composition of the Embu county emergency committee.

There was also no evidence showing compliance with the public finance management fund regulations. The report also indicated there was no evidence to show that the county executive committee member in charge of finance obtained the approval of the county executive committee in making all payments from the emergency fund.

The county chief was expected to address procurement irregularities captured by the AG.

 His counterpart Nandi Governor Stephen Sang said the county had an over-expenditure of PPEs and surgical masks since at the time they were in a crisis.

Sang was answering questions over the expenditure of Sh244 million injected by various institutions to manage Covid-19 in the county.

A special audit by Auditor General Nancy Gathungu questioned the spending of millions of shillings by his county without work plans and proper budgets.

According to Sang, the county did not need a supplementary budget as they got the money from “regular department budget in the name of non-funds.

The political rivalry between him and his Senator Samson Cherarkey played out during the grilling as the senator continuously interrupted the proceeding citing various concerns.

Cherarkey told members that he failed to understand how the county boss had an over-expenditure yet there was underfunding of frontline health workers.

The report stated that 276 support staff deployed in various county health facilities had not been paid their allowances at the time of audit.

But it seemed it was not only the governor that Cherarkey came ready for.

The senator at some point questioned the format used to grill the governor something that agitated the members.

Usually, the Auditor General is given a chance to read issues to the governor and the governor given an opportunity to respond after which senators ask questions.

But Cherarkey seemed not to like the method used despite members explaining the format.

The senator is now disrespecting this committee. Mr Chair you are now giving him too much time,” said Nominated Senator Millicent Omanga.

He however responded, “This is a Senate committee not a personal committee. I am not in the business of sitting in a class.”

 

Covid 19 Time Series

 

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