Blunders or sabotage? Uhuru's new headache - Daily Nation

Blunders or sabotage? Uhuru's new headache

Monday May 25 2009

 

By OLIVER MATHENGE

The government was on Monday headed for more embarrassment after a lobby group wrote to Parliament pointing out fresh errors in the supplementary budget approved by MPs only last week.

The group is demanding thorough investigations into the budget before the main Budget is read next month.

Last month, Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta had to withdraw the supplementary budget after the same NGO, Mars Group, pointed out mistakes amounting to Sh10 billion.

Typing errors

The minister said they were typing errors, an explanation accepted by the House.

Now Mars Group is questioning the new figures and has asked Parliament to apply pressure on the government to audit the new supplementary budget.

The group on Monday accused the Treasury of “cooking” the figures and prepared a memorandum outlining its allegations.

Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua later said the government had “noted” and was “studying” the Mars Group claims.

Mr Kenyatta and Finance permanent secretary Joseph Kinyua could not be reached the whole day and were said to be going over the figures afresh.

Mars Group claimed an analysis of the new supplementary budget raised serious concerns, which require further investigation as part of a forensic audit.

The group claims that the Treasury changed portions of the government book to balance the figures while leaving the total amount it was requesting intact.

“The Independent Forensic Audit as recommended by the Joint Committee Report should be formed to commence its work immediately and should complete its report ahead of the National Budget 2009-10, in order to restore public confidence in the budget books of the Ministry of Finance,” Mars Group director Mwalimu Mati said on Monday.

The chairman of the parliamentary budget committee, Mr Martin Ogindo, who was present said he had noted the concerns and would forward them to his team.

Earlier revelations of a Sh10 billion discrepancy in the budget in April are being investigated by the CID.

Mr Mati and his team say that the Treasury adjusted the estimates as directed by Parliaments but failed to amend the Supplementary Appropriations Bill, 2009. This, Mr Mati said, could mean MPs approved the wrong sums.

He also accused the Treasury of shifting money from one vote to another to cover up the Sh10.7 billion problem identified in the earlier estimates.

By doing its own calculations and going over the details of the budget line by line, Mars Group said the total of Sh26,087,512,713 which the Treasury says the country needs to run until June is overstated by Sh163,799,077.

“This amount is not tied to any approved budget line item and is therefore liable to be misused,” Mr Mati said.

In addition, Mars Group says that a manual calculation of the sub-totals of expected income to be used for Recurrent Expenditure would total Sh4,488,352,694, less than the Sh4,628,325,694 approved by Parliament last week.

“The difference is an inflation of expected income by Sh139.9 million, thereby freeing up this money for application as recurrent expenditure elsewhere since it is not tied to any budget line items,” Mr Mati said. “And these are not the only arithmetical errors. There are more in the supplementary estimates which the Minister for Finance managed to get passed by Parliament on May 20.”

However, Siakago MP Lenny Kivuti who is a member of the Finance Committee, dismissed the errors pointed out by Mars Group, arguing that they were the same errors the parliamentary team discovered during their enquiry.

He said it was surprising that the lobby group was now quoting a Sh10.7 billion error which was brought out in their report.

“They are quoting the same lines that we cited in our report and the figure of Sh10.7 billion is what we detected. I doubt whether there is anything new they have found out,” said Mr Kivuti.

He said the joint committee sat with experts from Treasury and top officials of Mars Group who pointed out where the mistakes were.

“If there are any other errors the work should be left to the forensic audit, which we recommended, and we are sure that no money is going to be lost,” he said.

Former Ntonyiri MP Maoka Maore, who blew the whistle on Anglo Leasing and is knowledgeable on corruption, said if there was sabotage within Treasury, then it was not being dealt with well.

“Making mistakes is normal, the issue is what you do when you are found out,” he said. If the minister is being sabotaged, what has he done about it?”

Quoting a Baganda saying he added: “When you are cheated at the market, you go quarreling on the road.”

On Monday, the lobby group asked Parliament to scrutinise its allegations before the main budget is read next month.

It also proposed stringent measures be put in place to control how the government spends public money.

“Currently, ninety five shillings in every one hundred shillings paid as tax by the public is used to service recurrent expenditure leaving only five shillings to be used for development,” Mars Group managing director Jayne Mati said.

Mrs Mati noted that Parliament, as the people’s representative, must work hard to ensure that public funds are not wasted. She added that Parliament must fix the size of the Cabinet to no more than 13 ministers.

The lobby group wants the development expenditure increased to 40 per cent of the entire budget in order to meet objectives under agenda four and Vision 2030.

They are also calling for a reduction on external borrowing, which consumes 24 per cent of the government’s loan repayment vote in the budget.

“It is high time that it is made illegal for the government to borrow money on our behalf without seeking approval from parliament,” Mrs Mati said.