The Auditor General Edward Ouko wants more than Sh52M paid to a section of Members of the Kitui County Assembly and eight assembly staff as allowances for trips abroad recovered saying the expenditure was misuse of public funds.
In an audit report for the financial operations of the County Assembly for the 2013/2014 fiscal year, Ouko said visits abroad by two groups of MCAs to Israel costing Sh34M and another trip to China by 17 MCAs and eight assembly staff at the cost of Sh19.9M did not meet the criteria of a charge on public funds and should be surcharged from the concerned persons.
The report further states that no documentary evidence such as air- tickets or copies of the passports were produced to confirm that all persons who were paid indeed traveled.
For the trip in China the report says,
“There was no specific and structured training program and itinerary for the tour together with appointments for various places that were intended to be visited provided and it is not known what benefits, direct or indirect, the public in Kitui County gained.”
Consequently, the auditor general ordered the County Assembly to recover unsupported allowances of Sh5.2M paid irregularly to MCAs while attending a two day annual Devolution Conference on 3rd April 2014 and 4th April 2014 at Leisure Lodge, Kwale County.
“Travel evidences, attendance, and check in registers to the conference by all MCA’s since they received payments in advance were not provided to confirm that indeed they traveled and therefore the Sh5.2M paid from domestic travel, subsistence and transportation costs vote could not be confirmed,” says the report.
The audit report also raised questions on irregular procurement procedures. For instance Ouko wondered how the assembly tender award committee awarded a contract of group personal insurance to the highest bidder at a sum of Sh16M with no documentary evidence as to why the insurance company was awarded the to the bidder.
The assembly also procured laptops and accessories totaling Sh4.2M using quotations method of procurement instead of using open tender method to attract more competitiveness.
Similarly, the assembly irregularly awarded a tender to install access control systems to a company that had no expertise and irregularly paid Sh1.4M to the company three days after the quotation.
The audit report also queried Sh570,615 paid to Building Contractors for construction of a storage water tank high tower on 26 June 2014 yet no quotations for the works had not been floated by the time the payment was done.
The assembly irregularly acquired and paid for rented ward offices as a fixed rate of Sh5,000 per month without following procurement procedures.
Consequently, the report revealed that fuel worth Sh742, 298 could not be accounted for and recommended that the amount should be surcharged on the responsible officers.
The report also observed that payments amounting to Sh8.5M paid from the operations account of the County Assembly were processed without complete authorizations by the Accounting Officer and the Finance Officer or their alternates as required implying lack of internal control.
“This implies that this internal control is not adhered to and hence expenditure could not be confirmed as a proper charge on public funds,” states the report.
On human resource, the assembly lacked human resource manuals, scheme of service, terms and conditions of service, which the report said would help in personnel management.
The audit report just like in other counties reveals misuse of public funds by county governments and especially assemblies on baseless and expensive abroad trips that are of no benefit to the common man.
With this worrying trend, proper structural and institutional measures should be put in place to avert similar occurrences that pose a great threat to devolution.