Governor Barchok put to task over discrepancies in pending bills

Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok during a previous press conference. [Gilbert Kimutai, Standard]

Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok had a rough time explaining to the Senate Public Accounts Committee why his administration exaggerated pending bills by more than Sh204 million.

Barchok was also put to task over stalled projects worth more than Sh1 billion.

Committee Chairman Moses Kajwang asked the governor why the county government declared Sh842.39 million pending bills as at June 2021 but could only support outstanding bills worth only Sh637.43 million, resulting in an unexplained variance of Sh204.95 million.

“I do not know whether Bomet governor is disturbed by the clear discrepancies in the pending bills which has been inflated by over Sh200 million. This cannot be an error but most probably a plan to defraud the people of Bomet their financial allocation,” said Kajwang.

The Homa Bay senator called for disciplinary action against individuals who inflated the pending bills by either their respective professional bodies or investigative agencies.

The governor was also asked to explain the irregular engagement of casual employees to the tune of Sh53 million without payment schedules and vouchers to support the expenditure.

The Auditor General report indicated that the county had included in the pending bills balance, bills amounting to Sh261.86 million which were not supported by documents such as invoices, certificates of completion and purchase orders.

Bomet Finance CEC Andrew Sigei, however, defended the pending bills saying they were not inflated with Chief Finance officer Erick Chepkwony saying the variance is as a result of pending commitments worth Sh201 million that had not been captured in the audit response.

“The correct position per our schedule is the pending bills are Sh637.4 million, we made an amendment to the statement to exclude the pending commitments, I would like to inform this committee that there was no deliberate plan to con our people,” said Chepkwony.

Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah said that such errors make the county administration look bad and appear corrupt.

Out of the stalled projects, the Sh532 million Chebang’ang water supply project which was a joint-venture between the county government and the Kenya Red Cross Society signed in 2018 for a period of five years stood out.

The Auditor General report revealed that after Sh96 million was spent on the project, the physical inspection conducted in November, 2021 showed that it was yet to be completed. 

Barchok found it difficult to tell the committee how much money was put into the project as the records were not clear and he only declared Sh96 million expenditure.

“Sh500 million is a lot of money that had been meant to be used for a water project to benefit the people of Bomet county. We are surprised that the governor is struggling to locate the documents and tell us what is happening on the ground,” said Kajwang.

The Auditor General’s report pointed out that out of the Sh257.4 million meant for Bomet Stadium, Sh 14 million had been spent on a project that was being established on land belonging to Bomet University College and not to the county government.

According to the report, the county entered into a contract with a local company in 2018 for the construction of the stadium for three years commencing June 29, 2018, however by June 30, 2021, only 4.5 per cent of the work had been done with at least Sh14 million paid to the contractor before the court stopped the works on the disputed land.

The senators asked the governor to state the plans he had put in place to ensure that residents get value for money already spent and a stadium, to which Barchok replied that they have bought land elsewhere for a new stadium.

Bomet Senator Hillary Sigei sought to know how the county government will justify the funds spent on construction of the stadium on land not belonging to the county and why due diligence was not done.

Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna told the governor to just accept that by buying land elsewhere to construct a stadium the Sh14 million was already lost and those responsible for that mistake should be held accountable.

The audit report showed that road projects had been allocated Sh601.6 million during the year under review with the status report showing projects worth Sh285.4 million have been completed while projects allocated Sh316.2 million had not commenced.

“This committee is concerned that the documents presented are not clearly paginated, are not signed, some are duplicated, which is a clear indication that some of the county officers are not taking their work seriously,” said Kajwang.

The county was on the spotlight over failure to comply with the law on ethnic composition of staff where 4,219 out of the 4,317 county staff on permanent and pensionable terms, representing 98 per cent, are members of one ethnic community.