Senators to debate motion on pending bills

Senate Investments and Special Funds Committee chair and Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina during the committee's meeting at Parliament buildings on  August 10, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Senate Minority Whip Ledama ole Kina has introduced a motion in the Senate, urging county governments to settle verified pending bills below Sh1 billion by the end of this fiscal year.  Concurrently, Ole Kina suggests that pending bills exceeding Sh1 billion be settled by the end of the 2024/2025.

Many first-term governors have declined to pay pending bills accumulated during their predecessors’ tenure, arguing that the billions of shillings demanded by service providers were mostly allocated to non-existent projects.

The senator highlighted that the pending bills have significantly impacted service providers, leading to business closures, halted county projects, and negatively affecting economic growth and service delivery.

“Numerous service providers in counties are grappling with court cases filed against them by their financiers and suppliers. Others are languishing in poverty, exacerbated by the increased cost of living, with increased incidences of mental health diseases and others dying as a result of the enormous amounts of debt owed to them by county governments,” he said.

Largest share

According to the County Governments Budget Implementation Review report for the first half of the fiscal year 2023/2024, county governments had accumulated a total of Sh156.34 billion in pending bills.

Nairobi county had the largest share of Sh107.04 billion, followed by Kiambu and Mombasa counties at Sh5.7 billion and Sh3.9 billion, respectively.

Ole Kina is urging the Senate to recommend that all county governments, pursuant to provisions of Regulation 41(2) & (3) of the Public Finance Management regulations, prioritize the payment of pending bills as a first charge on the county revenue fund. Failure to do so would result in the withholding of subsequent budget releases.

The Narok Senator is seeking the Senate’s recommendation that county governments should only pay pending bills included in their respective procurement plans, as per Regulation 50(2) & (3) of the Public Finance Management (County Governments) Regulations.

“The Senate should recommend that supplementary budgets for county governments are prepared in the 3rd quarter to curb instances of arbitrary re-allocations out of the approved budget estimates,” he said.

The Senate Minority Whip also seeks the Senate’s directive that county governments conduct public participation while formulating supplementary budgets. If they fail to do so, the Controller of Budget (CoB) shall not approve the same.

State House Comptroller Katoo ole Metito, who appeared before the committee alongside the Nairobi Governor, assured that the Office of the President will pay Sh15 billion in pending bills. These were incurred during the tenure of the Nairobi Metropolitan Service, which managed critical county departments.

“The State House Comptroller was the accounting officer for the Nairobi Metropolitan Services. That’s why the Office of the President will be paying the verified Sh15 billion in pending bills for the time it was in charge of running the city. This is our responsibility, not that of the Nairobi County Government,” said Metito.

Kisii Governor Simba Arati revealed during his appearance before the Senate Finance Committee in August last year that out of the Sh 1.6 billion in pending bills he inherited, only Sh231 million were found to be genuine.

Machakos Governor Wavinya Ndeti told the Senate County Public Accounts Committee in October last year that her administration was working to pay pending bills and would prioritize the long-standing Sh967 million.