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Oparanya makes maiden appearance at Senate, clashes with legislators

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya (L) accompanied by his Deputy Philip Kutima when they appeared before the Senate Public Accounts and Investment Committee on audit queries at Parliament on July 24, 2018. [Boniface Okendo/Standard]

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya yesterday accused the Senate of failing to protect the interests of the counties. Mr Oparanya was appearing before a Senate watchdog committee for the first time since his election in 2013.

He said the Senate County Public Accounts and Investment Committee should expand its scope and intervene to end woes facing the devolved units instead of only focusing on grilling governors.

The governor argued that county assemblies should be left to conduct their primary role of holding the county executive to account.

“I respect that the committee is doing its work as stipulated in the Constitution. But there are bigger problems facing county governments that need your urgent attention,” said Oparanya, who also chairs the Council of Governors (CoG) Finance committee.

He was responding to queries raised by Auditor General Edward Ouko.

Pressing problems

Oparanya told the Senate committee led by Moses Kajwang’ (Homa Bay) that the counties had pressing problems with the Integrated Financial Management Information System (Ifmis) because money was not being disbursed promptly and as a result the county governments could not plan.

“It is very difficult for us to plan because the cash flow to the devolved units is erratic. Like in Kakamega, we received the allocation for May and June on July 2. We have problems with Ifmis and staffing because of lack of funds. We need your help to resolve these problems and others,” he said.

“In the first Senate, there was a misconception that Parliament should only deal with oversight, which saw the CoG fight alone for the welfare of the counties. This committee needs to be different.”

Protracted tussle

In the last Parliament, Oparanya had a protracted tussle with the same committee, then headed by former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale and later Anyang’ Nyong’o, who is now the Kisumu governor.

This was after he snubbed all summons to appear before the team to respond to queries raised by the Auditor General on his administration’s spending during his first year in office.

The governor at the time dismissed the summons as political and accused the senators of usurping the role of the county assemblies.