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Governors, county officers face jail, surcharge

Breach of procurement guidelines topped the list of financial malpractices in the initial 10 counties captured in the report, which cites virtually all the governors over wasteful spending. Eight of the 10 governors could be arraigned in court over financial impropriety.

Governors and county officers face jail and surcharge of lost funds after a damning report on alleged plunder of public resources in counties was tabled in the Senate on Thursday.

The Senate’s County Public Accounts and Investments Committee recommended to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigation that governors and staff whose records are in the red be subjected to further investigations and those found culpable prosecuted.

Most of the counties had excessive foreign travel expenditure, according to the report, which covers the county bosses’ first year in office. Abuse and misuse of imprest, untimely surrender of imprest and poor imprest management were recurrent in most counties.

In what is believed to be a deliberate measure to buy time and probably put records in order, the report indicates that many counties did not cooperate with the Office of the Auditor-General, which generates the reports after every financial year.

And even when called to defend the expenditure, many of the governors were reluctant to submit documents in good time, raising doubts that some were working behind the scenes to fake records in a bid to be given clearance.

KEMBI GITURA

The initial report covered Kiambu, Busia, Tana River, Trans Nzoia, Nyandarua, Migori, Kwale, Kisumu, Samburu and Kericho counties.

Senate Deputy Speaker Kembi Gitura expressed his disappointment that Murang’a was not among counties whose reports were ready yet Governor Mwangi wa Iria had been declared a hostile witness by the committee.

“Murang’a people are anxious,” said Mr Gitura. “They want to know when one is declared a hostile witness and the matter is tabled before the House, what it means.”

He said there was a need for strict laws to guarantee a lifestyle audit for public officers who embezzle public funds and a follow-up to ensure the wealth they acquired fraudulently is confiscated.

“It can’t just be a function of making certain findings and at the end of the day it appears that nothing happens,” said Mr Gitura and asked the committee to “broaden its net so that certain recommendations have to do with restitution”.

Governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) and Martin Wambora (Embu) failed to appear before the committee owing to cases pending in court.

The committee requested the Auditor-General to carry out a special audit on Kirinyaga County after it seemed to have many financial queries.

BE ENFORCEABLE

Migori Senator Wilfred Machage said that, to check wanton wastage of public funds, recommendations by parliamentary committees must be enforceable as opposed to appealing to investigating agencies to act.

“It should be a prosecutable issue and not necessary government institutions doing a follow-up by starting a long, tedious process to confirm what Parliament has confirmed,” Dr Machage said.

For Kiambu, the committee recommended that Governor William Kabogo be held responsible for advancing imprest contrary to the Public Finance Management Act. The EACC was asked to investigate an apparent loss of Sh2.96 million by officers of the county.

The committee said the officers, who include Mr Samuel Kioko, Ms Gati Wambura, Ms Grace Njambi and Mr Elias Kariuki, should be prosecuted if found culpable and the money recovered.

The county was also grappling with pending legal bills totalling Sh99 million for the period ended June 30, 2014.

Although review showed that some of the debts were inherited from the defunct local authorities dating back to 2000, the accuracy and authenticity of this balance could not be confirmed for lack of complete records.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was asked to take appropriate action with a view to charging in court Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong for failure to submit a Central Bank of Kenya certificate to auditors for verification as directed by the committee and contrary to public audit guidelines.

A BALANCE

The county’s account had a balance of Sh352 million by June 30, 2014.

The committee also recommended that the governor be surcharged Sh457,000 paid to officers for carrying out normal duties. It further observed that he failed to submit the muster roll, payment schedule and other documents for Sh7 million spent on tree seedlings.

The county is also said to have illegally paid Sh16 million for Kenya Inter-Counties Sports and Cultural Association (Kicosca) Games.

The DPP was also asked to prosecute Tana River Governor Hussein Dado and his county staff over the flouting of procurement guidelines and recover Sh6.8 million spent on repairs and refurbishment of the County Assembly’s debating chamber.

Trans Nzoia Governor Patrick Khaemba was accused of failure to account for a Sh64 million imprest while some county officers held many imprests – with one holding 54, totalling Sh6.2 million – contrary to the government’s financial regulations.

Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal and his county officers could also be charged for breach of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act over Sh2.4 million motor vehicle insurance obtained without competitive bidding.

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