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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 7 September 2014

WAJIR GOVERNOR LINKED TO MAJOR SCAM



Devolution in Kenya was founded on the premise that regions that have historically been negated in the share for the national cake benefit from the national resources.

In this new development anchored in the new constitution, it was expected that Northern Kenya, mainly Wajir, Mandera, Turkana will majorly benefit from the resources devolved to them.
However, this seems not be the case as county governments in these poverty-ridden areas engage in sideshows, opulence and extravagance as millions of people suffer from insecurity, food scarcity, inefficient education and health system and poor infrastructure.

It is unfortunate that one of the counties mentioned above are now using taxpayers’ money to buy weapons from the neighbouring Somalia, a move that could spike conflict in this precarious region.

Wajir is a classic example. Despite the governor Ahmed Abdullahi Mohamad having been brought up in an environment synonymous to poverty, where having one meal a day was a luxury, decent housing and dressing a hard thing to come by, he has neglected the people in the area, choosing to spend most of his time in Nairobi.

Residents say he visits the area only once a week, and would hardly spend more than a day in Wajir. So shameful has been his operations, they allege, that a four-year-old child died recently of hunger despite the county government claiming that it had allocated Sh150 million this financial year to address food problems in the area.

A look at Wajir county government’s books of accounts shows an administration that residents should at this early stage have no hope in. In the last one year, about Sh2.2 billion have been stolen and misused in a massive cover-up that is orchestrated by the governor and his errand boys in the region.

So huge is the scam that the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has been petitioned to unearth corruption never witnessed in such a scale since devolved system of governance came into play.

In a shame detailed by a lobby group referred to as Wajir Anti-Corruption and Justice Forum, and received by EACC, Wajir county government procured motorcycles, plant and equipment  worth over Sh296 million. However, there are glaring discrepancies as far as this purchase is concerned as noted in the payment voucher no 54 of 20/03/2014. Bank account number 70502311504, Sh105 million was used in buying an excavator, grader, loader, case roller and case dozer through LPO number 0000413 and 0000414 and proforma invoice HCV/Assorted/00514 of 28/03/2014.
In a show of arrogance and imagined powers that is now analogous with governors in Kenya, the equipment were procured directly from CMC Motors Group, with no delivery notes, inspection, certification and acceptance.

Further, insiders at the Wajir county government say despite full payment having been made to CMC as at April 8 2014, the purchased equipment had not been delivered as of May 22 2014. Similar payment pattern was observed for other purchases from CMC Motors and Toyota Kenya Limited, dated 28/03/2014 and proforma invoice no. HCV/CLA26.280/05/04 of March 28 2014.

According to the lobby group, there is no justification for departing from procurement laws as provided for in the Public Procurement and Disposal Act 2005. “It should also be noted that the dealers were paid in advance before they supplied items as ordered. That most vehicles remain undelivered to date is not only a cause of huge concern but one that lends credence to the reference that Wajir county is a corruption hub,” said Mohammed Abikar, the lobby group’s chairman.

In the financial year under consideration, the county government awarded contracts on capital projects amounting to over Sh350 million. Of this, Sh258 million worth of contracts were not properly executed contrary to the law. It is also noted that no proper evaluation was carried  out, resulting to the awarding of contracts at prices way above the market rates.

A keen look at the following samples discloses a trend: The construction of sub-county administrative offices at Griftu through local purchase order number 0000456 of 04/03/2014 shows a contractual sum of Sh14 million; invoice No 3 on the same is not dated. The contract amount being Sh14.1 million and bill of quantities is unexplained.

However, a payment of Sh6 million appears to have been made as captured in payment voucher No 01104 of April 1 2014.
A keener scrutiny of the county’s financial records reveals that it paid Sh3.2 million to Sofiyo General Contractors for supply of a 50KvA generator through LPO number 1871090 of 18/10/2013, invoice No 3 of October 22 2013. There was no documentation to show point of use; neither were there any tender committee minutes on the quotation, opening of the tender, evaluation and award.

A senior accountant at the county government offices confided in us that indeed the theft by use of this method had led to losses amounting to more than Sh100 million.
One of the most commonly used avenues of stealing public funds is through fabrication of expenses. The Wajir county government failed not to exploit this “opportunity”. The county spent heavily on motor vehicle maintenance. A case in example, Wajir Plaza Station received Sh1.9 million as payment of supply of batteries and tyres to the county government. LPO number 1871089 of October 14 2013 and invoice number 7947 of October 16 2013 supports this illegal transaction.

Ironically, the stores were not charged to a budgeted item, LPO is not voted on and the supplier did not acknowledge receipt of the order. Moreover, there were no records of which county vehicles benefited with the purchase of these items, keeping in mind that new vehicles purchased come with new tyres and new batteries, more often than not, they also come with warranties. In this scam alone, taxpayers lost Sh15 million.

The petrifying picture is darkened further by the single-sourcing of motor vehicle insurance services, allegedly awarded to Takaful Motor Vehicle Insurance, led to the loss of Sh20 million in public funds. The report says there was no valuation report to support the premium and it remains unclear how the premiums paid were arrived at. Furthermore, copies of the insurance policy certificate corresponding to each vehicle remain unavailable for public scrutiny.

The Wajir county government high appetite for pilferage goes on. Omar Haji, one of the county employees, charged his employer Sh10,000 per day for the use of his vehicle, number KBT 470P between June 1 and September 30 as revealed in the payment voucher number 635 of 23/10/2013. This turned to Sh2.14 million. According to a Mr Abikar, the payment vouchers were not supported with invoice. In addition, there was no work ticket detailing evidence of travels made in service to the county.

The inflation of casual workers’ wages is also documented in the report, where it is noted that a payment made to the manager of Kenya Commercial Bank, Wajir, payment voucher 2478 of February 1 of Sh2.058 million for January 2014 and Sh1.788 million for February via payment voucher 3312 of February 28. “These improper payments have cost the taxpayer in excess of Sh6 million,” said the report.

In a special audit report of the county government for the four months ended June 30 2013, the Auditor General stated that Wajir spent Sh22.8 million in the purchasing of a Toyota VX, Nissan, Toyota Prado and two Massey Ferguson tractors without indicating the mode of procurement and number of firms that took part in the bidding. It also said that Sh16 million was spent on four Toyota Prados on June 29 2013 under unclear procurement process. In total, the Auditor General claimed that the county government had spent Sh85.98 million in irregular tendering of motor vehicles, which was apparently restricted to Al-Husain Motors and Toyota Kenya.

Perhaps, it is only the second coming of Jesus that could rescue the Wajir people from the filthy hands of their county government. In the last financial year, the county has been hiring clan members and relatives in blatant disregard of the principles against discrimination of persons. “This is a cause of concern, the fact that these employments proceed to rob the public of its money makes the practice even more inexcusable,” said unemployed Wajir youth, who recently graduated from Kenyatta University.

As an example of the abuse of the process, EACC refers to the payment made to the manager, the Kenya Commercial Bank, Wajir Branch, payment voucher 2478 of February 1 2014 of Sh2 million for January 2014 and Sh1.8 million for February via payment voucher 3312.

As is with the national government, Wajir county, too, has lost huge sums of money on inflated travel ad subsistence allowances. Last fiscal year, over Sh5 million was spent on accommodation and allowances. The payments were not properly supported with relevant documentation. Where seminars and conferences were attended there were no invitations to prove relevance of such to the people of Wajir. Crucially, there were no receipts to acknowledge the payments.

For instance, the county secretary of the county in payment vouchers 217 of 25/09/2013 and 2451 of January 31 2014 received payment of Sh300,000 and Sh186,000 respectively for subsistence allowances and accommodation. Subsistence payment was made for workshop on integrated development plan at Malindi and payment to facilitate training for the county on 23rd and 24th January 2014. However, payment schedule was not signed by the payees. In addition, payment voucher was not supported by work tickets.

Based on these massive scandals, the lobby group has written to parliament and the president, seeking to suspend the county. Investigations reveal that plans are already on top gear to suspend Wajir, and have it operated by the transition authority. Sources at EACC also show that the county government bank accounts are to be frozen, as amicable strategies are employed to tame the ruthless theft of public funds. “You will see him taken to court soon for theft of taxpayers’ money,” said a source at Integrity Centre.

Even with the massive theft of public funds in the county government of Wajir, the regime has deeply compromised those involved in exposing graft. Many are on the payroll of the county. Over Sh10 million has been handed over as protection fee, and more deals have been promised if they shield the corrupt governor from his hawk-eyed journalists. Recently, a top manager of a leading media house together with the Wajir county government hired a plane and took some of its journalists to the county.

They were housed in the town’s most posh hotel—Wajir Guest House—for four days. These costs were borne by the county government and it is suspected that it was after the county tour that the governor and the senator posed for a photo which was carried as a headlined: “Brand New Machine”. Yet the machine is a refurbished one. Insiders say this is a scheme for a cover up after a lobby group wrote to the EACC highlighting corruption in the county. But the battle to bring sanity in Wajir County seems far from over. Now, the lobby group is said to have sued the media group, its CEO, the managing editor and the writer of a fabricated story which claimed that some MPs were paying the lobby group to “bring down” county operations.

 Wajir county governor also stormed another media house where “a lot of money seems to have exchanged hands”. A journalist was bought a Land Rover.