27 August 2014

Kenya: Uasin Gishu Executives At Pains to Explain Expenses

Nairobi — Uasin Gishu County Executive members were Wednesday put to task by a Senate committee to account for funds allocated to the county after a report by the Auditor General indicated that there were some irregularities.

The Senate Public Accounts and Investments Committee which has been probing the audit reports of all 47 counties learnt that several government financial regulation procedures were not being adhered to and thus inconsistencies in procurement of goods and services.

The County Executive member in charge of Finance Shadrack Sambai and the County Assembly Clerk Richard Toroitich Chepkonga were put on the spot over some loopholes in their records. One of the queries was why some surplus money from the county's budget was not returned to the National Treasury at the end of the financial year as required.

"There was a balance of Sh21.4 million which was not taken to the National Treasury. You took it to the County Treasury, and so can you tell us why the money didn't come to Nairobi as per procedure for the Controller of Budget to then subsequently return it in this new financial year?" Committee chairman Boni Khalwale asked.

The Clerk said the Finance Executive Shadrack Sambai had told him that the money had been reimbursed to the National Treasury and he (Chepkonga) then didn't follow up.

Sambai however had a difficult time explaining what happened to the money. "The funds that were transferred back to the County Treasury ... uh, the funds were re-budgeted," Sambai fumbled as Khalwale continued the onslaught. "Do you appreciate the meaning of your answer, that you unilaterally spent public funds outside the budget?"

Sambai asked for a week to submit the budget of the year 2013, detailing the spending of the Sh21 million. "We are giving you the time, but that answer will be brought by the Governor himself on what happened to the Sh21 million," Khalwale ruled.

And it didn't end there, an audit conducted alluded to a possibility of over-pricing of vehicles purchased by the county after the report showed that six vehicles were bought at a cost of Sh40.9 million but which were delivered after they had been paid for, contrary to the Public Procurement and Disposal Act. Three of the vehicles were delivered in July while the other three were delivered in October, three months after they were paid for.

The Clerk attributed the delay in delivery to customisation of the vehicles which, according to the committee, was not a relevant answer.

Another Sh2.1 million was paid to a single-sourced insurance company 90 days before the vehicles were supplied. The money was wired to AMACO insurance on June 28, 2013 for vehicles supplied in July and October.

The Auditor General's report also indicated that close to Sh38 million was paid to suppliers of furniture, computer and hardware material even before the goods were delivered, again contrary to regulations.

The County Clerk said they had to pay for everything because the financial year was coming to a close and the money would have been reverted to the National Treasury yet it had been budgeted for and procurement commenced.

Other issues raised during the hearing included the non-maintenance of the petty cash-book which resulted in the disappearance of Sh1.5 million.

The officers explained that the accounting officer who was in-charge of the petty cash book was dismissed owing to the poor maintenance of the records that could have led to the disappearance of county funds.

The Sessional Public Accounts and Investments Committee will continue probing County expenditure even as it awaits the notice by the High court which has barred three Governors from appearing before it.

The Controller of Budget with direction from the Senate has temporarily suspended funds to the three, (Kiambu, Bomet and Kisumu) until they respond to the queries by Auditor General to the satisfaction of the committee.

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