Members of the Makueni County Assembly made unnecessary foreign trips that cost the County Government Sh27M in the 2013/2014 financial year.
A report released by Auditor General Edward Ouko on the finance operations of the County Assembly showed that various select committees and the Speaker Stephen Ngelu traveled to Singapore, Malaysia, Rwanda, USA, United Arab Emirates and Ethiopia without following due procedures.
The report further states that no documentary evidence supported the unnecessary trips, which the auditor said, were not related to the mandate of the County Assembly.
“There were no documents such as back to office reports and travelling documents casting doubts as to whether due procedures were followed before the trips were undertaken. No register for the purpose was maintained as required by subsection (2) of the Standing Orders,” reads the report.
Sh14M was paid to Members of County Assembly (MCAs) as subsistence and mileage allowances contrary to Salary and Remuneration Commission circular on mileage allowance.
The auditor general also revealed double payments of traveling and subsistence allowances to MCAs and other assembly officers.
In one incident, six MCAs were paid subsistence and traveling allowances totaling to Sh690, 000 for attending a sectorial committee on Social Economic and Planning in Mombasa between November 10 and 15. However, the same MCAs were paid subsistence allowances for having sat in various committee meetings in Makueni during the same period.
Similarly, four other MCAs were paid subsistence allowance amounting to Sh64,000 for attending a two-day meeting in Mombasa between the 1st and 2nd of August but the same MCAs were paid similar allowances totaling Sh104,000 for attending a meeting convened by Association of Members of County Assemblies in Nairobi on the same dates.
In another similar incident, a senior procurement officer was paid a total of Sh176, 120 as remedial fees at the Kenya School of Government in Mombasa that took place between June 14 and 20, and travel allowances for a retreat in Kilifi that took place on the exact dates.
The report further revealed an irregular payment of Sh3.6M paid as subsistence and traveling allowances to some officers alleged to have attended workshops in Nairobi and Kwale without documentary evidence.
The County Assembly flouted the procurement procedures during the purchase of furniture and general equipment worth Sh14M during the period under review. No documentary evidence was provided to ascertain that the Public Procurement and Disposal Regulations, 2006 was adhered to. Similarly, the procurement procedures of the construction of the Makueni County Assembly Block at the cost of Sh39M was not supported by relevant documents.
The auditor also raised eyebrows on an insurance premium of Sh20M and legal fees amounting to Sh6M paid to various firms without payment vouchers and procurement records.
“In these circumstances it is not possible to confirm the validity and accuracy of the Sh26M paid as legal fees and insurance premium,” outlines the report.
The auditor further points out irregular recruitment in which some assembly officials were recruited despite their names missing in the list of short listed candidates for the advertised jobs.
“Procurement officers Jane Mwongeli, Madona Muse, Stephen Muse, Commissionaire III Felistas Matheka, Dennis Kimeu, Stephen Makau, Josphat Kimanthi Sergeant at arms Clarice Komu, Leonard Ndwala and Librarian/ research officer Shadrack Mutunga were not shortlisted candidates for the advertised jobs,” says the report.
During the period under review, the county assembly did not maintain a creditor’s ledger making it impossible for the auditor to establish the indebtedness of the assembly to its suppliers.
The report of the auditor general detailing possible embezzlement of public funds in a county that has been embroiled in leadership wrangles for the last two years is quite unfortunate.
Although the auditor general has raised similar audit queries in other counties, Makueni presents a rather unique scenario owing to the fact that the Governor Kivutha Kibwana is seen to have zero tolerance for corruption.
This perhaps explains the reason why the governor initiated the dissolution of the county (he has vehemently denied the claims) following a bitter fallout with the MCAs over budget related issues.
During the infighting that derailed development for more than two years Kivutha, accused the MCAs of making unrealistic budgetary demands and useless abroad trips that cost the county millions of money, trips that the auditor has also termed as unnecessary.
On the other hand, the MCAs accused the governor of incompetence and abetting corruption, claims he dismissed. However, a report by the auditor general on the financial operations of the County Executive has also revealed massive misuse of public funds.
Is it a case of the pot calling the kettle black? Only time will tell.