The Senate County Public Accounts Committee wants officials in former Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok's administration held accountable for inflated pending bills amounting to more than Sh5 billion for the financial year 2020/2021.
The former county officials are also in a spot for spending Sh1.4 billion on domestic travel and per diems which translated to Sh3.8 million daily during the same period despite travel and meeting restrictions at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Appearing before the committee chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang during Senate Mashinani sitting in Lodwar town on September 26, 2023, Turkana Governor Jeremiah Lomorukai said that the assumption of office of governor committee declared pending bills amounting to Sh7.2 billion in its handover report.
“When we carried out a verification exercise, we found out that the eligible pending bills were only Sh2.16 billion out of the Sh7.2 billion which was declared by the assumption of office committee when I came to office with the rest constituting ineligible pending bills,” said Lomurukai.
Kajwang called on the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to carry out investigations and take action against those involved in impropriety during the former governor’s tenure. Nanok is currently the Deputy Head of Public Service.
The Homa Bay Senator wondered why the former county leadership spent only Sh1.2 billion on development while it was spending more on domestic travel in a hardship county where locals have challenges accessing crucial services such as water supply, health care and lack of education facilities.
Kajwang said it was disturbing that in just a single financial year the previous Turkana county administration was allegedly scheming to steal more than Sh5 billion yet it had little to show for the over Sh100 billion allocation since the advent of devolution in 2013.
“The findings in the audit report for the financial year 2020/2021 for Turkana county is sickening, how can the former county leadership plan to steal Sh5 billion of public money, no wonder the county has got little to show for over Sh 100 billion allocated to it since the advent of devolution 10 years ago,” he said.
Kisii Senator Richard Onyonka described the expenditure on domestic travel and per diem as unnecessary yet the residents are in need of crucial services.
Onyonka asked the committee to summon Nanok to explain the questionable expenditure by his administration.
The Kisii senator said it is disturbing that most counties that are labelled marginalized and receive extra money through the equalization fund have little to show after the leadership misappropriated the money that could have turned around locals' fortunes.
“Senators have been lobbying for counties to get more money so that they can be able to accomplish more development projects for their residents, but when we have clear cases of misappropriation of funds like in Turkana county, we find it difficult to put up our case,” said Onyonka.
The Auditor General's report also put the county government to task for spending Sh3.8 billion annually on the 3,908 employees with the committee pointing out that the bloated workforce was gobbling huge sums of money that could have been put to good use.
The report pointed out the glaring surge in personnel payments from Sh9 million in the fiscal year to a staggering Sh297 million the following financial year but the county government defended the expenditure saying the money went towards clearance of arrears owed to the Kenya Revenue Authority while additional expenditure was as a result of promotions.
Stay informed. Subscribe to our newsletter
Kajwang’ directed the county government to provide a schedule of the payments within seven days to determine whether the expenditure was a proper charge so as to prove that the money had not been stolen by those who were in power then.
Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna said the former leadership of Turkana County must be held accountable for the misappropriation of funds for 10 years to serve as a lesson to other governors that they must prudently spend public funds for the intended purposes.
“I am saddened that the leadership of the county was led by a governor elected on the ODM party ticket where I am the secretary general. I am ashamed of what we are seeing here today, I am asking the current governor who is a member of our party to ensure that he does not fail the people of Turkana like his predecessor,” said Sifuna.
The discrepancies in expenditure during the year under review also revealed an unexplained Sh44.8 million variance between figures in the payroll and in the financial statement in regard to staff salaries and employees failing to surrender Sh26.9 million in imprest with the committee directing that the money should to be recovered within a month.
Kajwang questioned the decision of the previous administration to pay Sh3 million to the Council of Governors to fund its operations and another Sh3 million to the Frontier Development Council, an amorphous regional bloc.
The audit report further revealed a questionable variation of the contract for the construction of the county headquarters which has been ongoing since 2015, from Sh695 million to Sh809.8 million with the governor telling the committee that Sh20 million is required for electric works before it is occupied by the end of next month.
“Turkana county government headquarters has been under construction since 2015 with Sh695 million allocated for its construction before the figure later shot up to Sh809 million, the building is complete with only some electric works costing Sh20 million remaining before we occupy it by the end of October,” said Lomurukai.
The governor told the committee that in the one year he has been in office he has put in place systems to steer the county in the right trajectory to achieve its development goals and so far, he has done 40 per cent of what the previous administration did in 10 years.
Lomurukai supported calls to hold those who misappropriated public funds accountable saying he has formed a task force to look into the anomalies detected especially in the payment of salaries to weed out ghost workers.
The governor admitted that he inherited a rotten system and he has conducted reshuffles in the various departments to streamline operations and promised to ensure prudent use of public funds.
“When I came to office, I discovered that many things had gone wrong, I have put in place various measures to deal with cartels that have been running the show for the last 10 years and I am sure that in the next few years, the county will be on the right track in achieving its goals,” he said.