Kenya: Barchok Quizzed Over Sh9 Million Office Furniture Expenditure

4 December 2019

Former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto has been drawn into a case profligate spending that has dogged the county after it emerged that he procured a desk for his use at a cost of Sh750,000.

In the most open display of the misappropriation of public funds, the county in the 2017/18 financial year, spent Sh9 million for furniture in the governor's office.

CONTRACTORS

Out of the amount an expenditure of Sh713,000 was incurred for the purchase of a bookshelf, Sh57,000 for an item known as executive flower vase, an executive chair for Sh293,000, among other expenses.

Other expenses that left members of the County Public Accounts and Investments Committee (CPAIC) of the Senate shocked were Sh78,000 and Sh60.85 million used to furnish the newly constructed governor's lounge and office block.

The revelations of the bizarre expenditure were laid bare on Tuesday when current Governor Hillary Barchok appeared before the CPAIC to defend the county's accounts for the 2017/18 financial year.

"These items were procured before our regime came into office. While they were procured by Mr Ruto, it is our regime that made the payments because the contractors had valid documents," Dr Barchok told the committee on Tuesday.

EXTRAVAGANCE

Mr Ruto served as governor between 2013 and 2017.

The queries are contained in the county executive audit report raised by former Auditor-General Edward Ouko for the 2017/18 financial year.

The county procured the furniture from Panesar Ltd, a high end furniture manufacturer in 2016/17 financial year.

Dr Barchok, who assumed office following the death of his predecessor Joyce Laboso, admitted that there was extravagance in the procurement of goods and services but insisted that the current administration could nothing because by the time they came into office they awards had been issued.

"This is an expenditure that worries but we had an obligation to pay because the contractor had valid papers. It's extravagance but it was done before we got into office," he said.

JUSTIFICATION

However, the county boss could not answer when chairman of the committee Moses Kajwang challenged him to explain what he had done to rectify the anomaly when he took over after the death of Dr Laboso

Dr Barchok was also hard pressed to explain a suspicious Sh939 million expenditure after the county government failed to provide adequate documents to justify the contract.

Further, he could not explain why the county spent Sh233 million which was not supported by payment vouchers.

The funds were spent on acquisition of goods and services, but the transaction caught the attention of the committee after it emerged that the county failed to classify the items.

For instance, the county expenditure on 'specialised materials' increased from Sh54.10 million the previous year to Sh186.97 million in the year under review.

Similarly, the public participation budget rose from Sh34 million to Sh145 million and training of staff cost Sh65 million but the governor could not given a justification or provide the necessary documents.

FORGERY

Worse still, the county executive could furnish the committee with the original vouchers forcing the senator Christopher Langat to accuse the executive of forgery.

"Everything they have brought here is cooked. It appears the documents they have submitted to the committee were hurriedly prepared to cover up something," Dr Langat, who represents Bomet said.

Kirinyaga Senator Charles Kibiru challenged the governor to explain the value an expenditure of Sh939 million had brought to the people of the county.

However, the governor admitted most of the documents relating to the expenditure were lost when fire gutted a section of the finance office and a time when the county executive was shifting to the new offices in June last year.

PERCENTAGES

"We have a problem in record management. As an executive we have noted. I don't want to be defensive but I can assure the committee we are putting in place mitigations."

However, Mr Kajwang ordered the EACC to investigate the prudence of expenditure of the Sh939 million arguing that expenditures on some items had grown by crazy percentages.

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