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Oparanya and governors risk being jailed for snubbing Senate group

Worried by a trend where some governors have been reluctant to appear before Parliament to account for funds allocated to counties, a Senate oversight committee opted for a rare decision.

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya risks being jailed over alleged financial malpractices in his county after the Senate County Public Accounts and Investment committee upheld the Auditor General’s observations.

The damning report indicates that the governor failed to account for millions of shillings allocated to the county during the 2013/2014 financial year. The members concluded that Mr Oparanya should face the law for demeaning the committee’s constitutional mandate.

The members said they were behind schedule due to governors rushing to court to delay and failure by the Auditor General’s office to submit reports to Parliament on time.

Last week, the committee started dealing with 2014/15 records, though Mr Oparanya is yet to clear his name over how he spent funds during his first year in office.

FUNDS STOLEN

“We shall look at the audit reports, whether the governor is present or not. For any outstanding query, we shall put a disclaimer, which means that the funds were indeed stolen,” Prof John Lonyangapuo said.

Earlier on, committee chairman Anyang’ Nyong’o had warned that governors taking advantage of this electioneering period to dodge committee summons would not be spared.

The members said the auditor general’s reports had exposed massive wastage at counties.

Prof Nyong’o said some county bosses were offering flimsy excuses, with some saying they could not account for public funds because they were busy campaigning ahead of party primaries and the General Election. 

He said Parliament doesn’t stop discharging its constitutional mandate of oversight simply because Kenyans are headed to the polls in five months. 

POLITICAL ABUSE

“During this election period, use of public funds in counties can be tantamount to political abuse,” Prof Nyong’o said.

Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi said: “The audit queries are weighty. As a committee, we are in agreement with the findings of the Auditor General that the governor has failed to account for missing millions.”

Governors Peter Munya (Meru), William Kabogo (Kiambu), Godana Doyo (Isiolo), Samuel Ragwa (Tharaka-Nithi), Cornel Rasanga (Siaya) and Mr Oparanya were expected to appear before the committee on the first, second and third day of the oversight sessions.

But only governors Ragwa, Kenneth Lusaka (Bungoma) and Moses Akaranga (Vihiga) honoured the invitations.

The delegation from Vihiga County was asked to return next Friday after they were involved in a road accident. However, the Sunday Nation has established that Governor Moses Akaranga was not in that vehicle. Dr Boni Khalwale, a medical doctor, asked the committee to excuse the Vihiga team and reschedule their appearance, saying accident victims suffer trauma. 

The members were angered by Mr Oparanya for sending county finance chief and county attorney, to represent him, yet he should appear in person.

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