By Nelson Mathews
The Commission on Administrative Justice (CAJ) says it has concluded investigations on the alleged misuse of public funds by four members of the Migori County Assembly.
The Ombudsman commenced investigations after receiving an anonymous letter of complaint in October 2014. The letter stated that four Migori County Assembly members (MCAs) signed for per diem and other travel allowances but did not travel to India as scheduled.
Following the revelations, CAJ wrote the four MCA’s seeking their response on the allegations within 21 days. Before the expiry of the 21 days, CAJ decided to initiate investigations.
The commission says that before undertaking the investigation, it communicated to the Speaker of Migori County Assembly through a letter on October 27, 2014.
CAJ says that the investigations revealed that there were two trips during the period 20 July, 2014 and July 25, 2015 to India and Tanzania. The trips were said to have been sanctioned by the Migori County Assembly Service Board.
The two trips were facilitated by the Migori County Assembly at a total cost of Sh13,279,328. This was to cater for per diem and other travel allowances for the Speaker, the Clerk and thirty six MCA’s.
Out of thirty six who were to travel to India, four MCA’s, Boaz Okoth Owiti, the Deputy Speaker and MCA North Kadem, William Abed Maroa, Masaba Ward MCA and the Chair of the County Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee, Samwel Rioba Kongani, Nyamosense-Komosoko MCA ward and Godjope MCA Bernard Abwao Ochieng did not travel.
However, despite their not travelling, Owiti received Sh130,000, while the other three Maroa, Kongani and Ochieng received Sh152,850 each on July 18, 2014.
Following the failure to travel to India, despite receiving per diems, Migori County Assembly Clerk sought explanations from Kongani and Ochieng in a letter dated July 30, 2014.
CAJ’s investigations team recovered response letters from Abwao and Kongani explaining why they did not travel to India and also authorising the Clerk to recover the money from their salaries. To date, only Ochieng has fully refunded the per diem given to him.
The investigation by CAJ has unearthed a scheme where public officers are siphoning tax payers’ money as per diems despite their failing to produce receipts or authentic travel documentation. With this knowledge, CAJ has recommended that the Clerk to Migori County Assembly Patrick Wakiine recover Sh130,000 from Owiti, and Sh152,850 from Maroa and report back to CAJ within ninety days.
CAJ says that Wakiine should exercise stringent financial controls in line with the Public Finance Management Act, 2012 by putting in place measures for approval of expenditure, including trips by members and surrendering of imprest within 48 hours.
Members and staff of county assemblies who fail to surrender imprest within 48 hours should be surcharged in line with the Public Finance Management Act, 2012.
Other recommendations include Clerks to County Assemblies ensuring that members and staff of the assemblies are not paid travel allowances until the trips are confirmed and documented. They should exercise fiscal discipline by ensuring that public money is used in a prudent and responsible manner in line
The CAJ says it will share this report with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for purposes of vetting the state officers in future elections and appointments.