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Citizen Weekly

Monday, 16 February 2015

Wajir county budget game of duping voters

A World Bank report detailing how counties spent their resources in the last financial year has come under heavy criticisms with some saying it was massively doctored.
According to the report, most of the counties spent an average of 21pc of their resources on development, 30pc on administration and 46pc on salaries and wages.
It lists counties that spent at least 20pc of their budgets on development are  Kwale, Kakamega, Samburu, Mandera, Taita Taveta, Isiolo, Tharaka Nithi, Migori, Marsabit, Elgeyo Marakwet, Kericho, Nandi, Garissa and Nyeri.
On the other hand, the poor performers are Mombasa at position 47, followed by Kisumu, Tana River, Embu, Uasin Gishu, Nakuru, Nairobi, Kilifi, Narok, Laikipia, Busia, Baringo, Bungoma, Kitui, Vihiga, Meru, Siaya, Lamu, Kirinyaga, Kiambu, Makueni, Nyandarua and Kajiado.
Some of the counties, however, surpassed their targets for revenue collection. The top collectors with over 43pc in revenue collection were West Pokot, Kericho, Marsabit, Tharaka Nithi, Homa Bay, Nyamira, Nyeri, Samburu, Kajiado, Bomet, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nyandarua, Siaya, Nairobi, Laikipia, Vihiga, Nakuru, Baringo Makueni, Turkana, Meru, Busia, Taita Taveta and Wajir.
The poor performers were Bungoma at the bottom, Kisumu Kisii, Garissa, Embu, Uasin Gishu, Migori, Nandi, Murang’a, Kwale, Mombasa, Isiolo, Kitui, Tana River, Narok, Trans Nzoia, Kiambu, Lamu, Kirinyaga and Machakos.
In what brings to question the objectivity of the report, Wajir county has been under probe by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission for the last one year was ranked the top county in terms of funds absorption on developmental projects at 58pc.
The county is also facing an imminent collapse as a petition to dissolve it is now in the hands of Uhuru Kenyatta over allegations of corruption and nepotism.
In its analysis of the current budget, a lobby group, known as Wajir Anti-Corruption and Justice Forum, accused the county government for a number of loopholes, accusing the administration of not having a narrative to explain the choices made in the budget in all the budget lines.
But Wajir residents have fiercely refuted the claim that the governor put 58pc of the funds in development projects. They say nothing, even 5.8pc of the total resources, has been seen on the ground. “We knew it was coming. We have been complaining about corruption and wasteful spending in the county,” said a resident.
Indeed, an independent budget expert said the 2013/2014 county budget could not be accessed anywhere, not even in websites. “It seems it was a secret document. That is why we are not surprised about the World Bank findings. But we need proof now. We need to see what projects done, their cost and who is carrying out them, even if it is 10pc of what has been said,” said the expert. Residents say the governor might have hanged himself in the disguise that he is hoodwinking the people of Wajir.
The Wajir Anti-Corruption lobby group said in an exclusive interview that it is the governor who funded and even sponsored the publication of the document. “The document is not even in the World Bank website. The report, too, was not made available to even other publications, except the Daily Nation,” said the lobby group.
It is alleged the report was authored at the Controller of Budgets Office in Nairobi.
It is also alleged a second document is coming up, detailing how Wajir county has been good, second best in the country, at the commitment of funds allocated to them. “This story was to be carried out in the newspaper...but flopped.”
A resident said: “He is desperate. He is drowning. Now they say if Daily Nation does not produce any evidence on the same, they have to apologies. “We are seeking for proof from the author and the publisher if not then an immediate apology and arrest of the governor.”
But it is the large scale theft of public resources in Wajir that has thrown the World Bank report into question. A look at the Wajir county government’s books of accounts show 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 says they have never witnessed corruption of such a scale since devolved system of governance came into play.
In a detailed report by the lobby group 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 March 3 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 March 28, 2014.
In a show of arrogance and imagined powers that is now analogous with governors, the equipments 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 4 2014, the purchased equipment had not been delivered as at May 22 2014. Similar payment pattern was observed for other purchases from CMC Motors and Toyota Kenya Limited, dated March 3 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 on that lends credence to the reference that Wajir county is a corruption hub,” said Mohammed Abikar, the lobby group’s chairman.
Records further pierces apart the county government’s self-importance in not obeying the laws of the land. 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 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 subcounty administrative offices at Griftu through Local Purchase Order number 0000456 of May 4 2014 shows a contractual sum of Sh14million; invoice number three 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 0-1 2014.
A keen 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 October 18 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 support this illegal transaction. Ironically, the stores were not charged to a budgeted item, local purchase order is not voted on and the supplier did not acknowledge receipt of the order. Moreover, there were no records of which county vehicles benefitted 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. One  Omar Haji Ibrahim, 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  October 23 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.
Haji was not available when we sought his comment on the issue.
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 were 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 hands of their county government. In the last financial year, the county has been hiring clan members and relatives in 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 an 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 of  October 2 2014.
As is with the national government, Wajir county, too, has lost huge sums of money on inflated travel and 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 September 25 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 a workshop on integrated development plan at Malindi and payment to facilitate training for the county on January 23-24, 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 in top gear to suspend Wajir governor, 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.
Critics say there is a high possibility the consultants who took part in the World Bank report were heavily bribed, and therefore producing a skewed county spending report.
Hundreds of millions have been looted through false supply of relief food and inflating cost of projects and equipment. For instance, the cost of construction of dams, housing and repair and maintenance of seasonal roads has been inflated. A secondhand grader, for instance, was repainted and sold at triple its price. It is easy to put on paper a fraudulent and deceptive allocation of budget but total different thing to show proof of it.
In fact, some counties with development budgets of less than 10pc of development budgets have much to show for compared to alleged 58pc allocation to Wajir.
Whether this was a World Bank report or evil work of corruption cartels at the budget office is a debate for another day. “World Bank should cease to rely on fraudulent figures supplied by fraudulent county administrations to an incompetent office like that of Controller of Budget who have failed to boost accountability of funds at counties.”