Two CSs face censure by House committee over ad spending

Henry Rotich (Treasury) and James Macharia (Transport and Infrastructure) were criticised by the Public Accounts Committee.

Friday January 29 2016

Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary James Macharia.

Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary James Macharia. He and Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich face censure from the Public Accounts Committee for placing advertisements in the media to discount the Auditor-General's report on the government’s spending for 2013/2014. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JOHN NGIRACHU
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Two Cabinet secretaries are facing censure from a parliamentary committee for placing advertisements in the media to discount an Auditor-General's report on the government’s spending for 2013/2014.

Mr Henry Rotich (Treasury) and Mr James Macharia (Transport and Infrastructure) were criticised by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which has been scrutinising the report and asking principal secretaries to respond to the queries raised by the auditors.

Mr Macharia and his accounting officer when he was at the Health ministry, Mr Fred Sigor, were summoned to meet the PAC after their successors failed to adequately account for more than Sh24 billion spent during their time at Afya House.

The PAC on Wednesday evening resolved to summon the two and other former top officers at the Health ministry to appear before it after current PS Nicholas Muraguri presented inconsistent responses to queries raised by the Auditor-General.

Among the expenses queried by Auditor-General Edward Ouko for the financial year 2013/2014 was the source of some Sh17 billion that was used to pay doctors, nurses and other workers in the first six months of devolution.

EXCESS EXPENDITURE

The amount is part of the Sh24 billion Mr Ouko reported was classified as excess expenditure by the ministry without parliamentary approval.

“I think it would be paramount to summon all the people who were in charge of the ministry there,” said Abdikadir Omar Aden (Balambala, ODM) after Dr Muraguri’s explanation on another expense raised more questions than answers.

“The public was once told that Sh24 billion was unaccounted for. The ministry took out a full-page advertisement in the newspaper saying the headlines were not true, but it is now turning out that the headlines were true,” said Mr Aden.

Committee chairman Nicolas Gumbo said a majority of the issues raised by the Auditor-General had not been resolved despite the explanations from the new PS and his team.

“We are not happy with the responses we have been getting,” he added.

“We want to call him (Macharia) here. We’re having cases where money was spent irregularly but even within that irregularity they can’t tell you how that money was spent. They can’t show you where it went,” he added.

SEVERE CRITICISM

Mr Timothy Bosire (Kitutu Masaba, ODM) said the Auditor-General had come under severe criticism for the revelations he made in the report for the first year of the Jubilee administration. This, he said, was to the extent that there were reports of a plot to remove him from office.

PAC vice-chairman Jackson Rop said the matter would also be raised when the team finally meets the Big Five: the Auditor-General, the Treasury PS, the Attorney-General, the Head of Civil Service and the Controller of Budget at the end of the scrutiny.

On the Sh17 billion, the MPs questioned the source of the budget advance the ministry used to pay the health workers.

“The Sh17 billion was drawn from the ministry’s budget while the remaining Sh7 billion was an advance from the Treasury,” said Dr Muraguri.

Counties were at the time not handling the health workers' payroll, he said, and the ministry had to find ways to pay them.

“We had to cut on areas like travel and some development to raise the funds. But I assure you that no strategic programme was impacted by this decision,” he said.

The PAC has demanded a list of the counties that received the money.

Dr Muraguri said counties had not paid back Sh4.4 billion to the national government.

“We need a list of counties that received the money and another for those that have refunded,” said Mr Rop.

He asked the ministry to work with the National Treasury to fast-track the recovery of the funds.