Senate acts to stop plunder of county funds

A Senate committee wants counties restricted from opening accounts in commercial banks to reduce corruption in the devolved units.

The Senate finance committee said the Bill should be fast-tracked to seal a loophole in law that governors and senior county officials have been exploiting to misappropriate public funds.

The proposed legislation on public finance management, scheduled for public participation this week, seeks to control how accounts are opened in commercial banks.

“imprest accounts have been misused. Even the auditor-general has been raising concerns. Failure to deposit public funds in the county revenue fund account is a conduit for corruption in counties,” committee chairman Billow Kerrow said.

He cited the case of Bungoma, where more than Sh300 million for imprest was deposited in private accounts belonging to the staff yet the county has more than 150 bank accounts.

Source of funds declaration forms from Cooperative Bank signed by Ms Lilian Wafula Namukhasi indicated that she was undertaking the financial transactions, as an imprest holder, on behalf of Bungoma County Assembly.

Kajiado Senator Peter Mositet said the Bill would end the culture of taking imprest as a “money minting opportunity” both in the national and county governments.

“Unfortunately, it may become law when millions of shillings that could have been utilised on development and improve people’s lives have gone down the drain,” he said.

Mr Kerrow said governors were shielding their counties’ financial transactions from being subjected to the Integrated Financial Management System to enhance accountability.

According to the committee, the “illegality is done with the blessings” of governors and speakers of county assemblies, in collusion with senior county officials.

The committee said technical staff, especially those who work in the procurement department, are often threatened with the sack if they refuse to “endorse the illegalities”.

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