Embu County officials are on the spot over plans to pay up to Sh60 million to acquire land they already own and decision to pay gym subscriptions for MCAs in a budget that even the assembly has warned may be inflated.
The irregular deals were laid bare during a budget sitting, where MCAs discovered that a department formerly known as Lands, Water, Environment and Natural Resources had already paid Sh60 million and had pending bill of another Sh60 million for the land at the Mwea Settlement Scheme.
The Lands department has since been hived off the parent ministry and is led by Mr Josphat Kithumbu, while that of Water, Environment and Natural Resources is led by Patrick Waganagwa.
After the split, the Lands department carried forward the Sh60 million transaction as pending bills for the 2017/2018 financial year, therefore resulting in a Sh120 million debt.
Mwea MCA Harrison Mwaluko said the parcels of land were next to Masinga dam where the county government planned to build a resort hotel.
He said the land is part of the controversial 44,000 acre Mwea settlement scheme where the government recently issued out over 7,200 title deeds.
The MCAs demanded to know how the transaction took place, since by the time the land was purported to have been sold, all parcels in Mwea Settlement Scheme were held in trust by the county government and had not been demarcated or allocated to private individuals.
An incensed Mr Mwaluko called for a probe, saying Embu county government might have colluded to irregularly allocate parcels of land to individuals for free, and then buy the same land.
Among the people listed as being owed by the county government are two prominent Embu lawyers who are set to receive Sh23 million and Sh37 million respectively.
Others are a Mr Geoffrey Kithaka, who is set to receive Sh23 million and a Mr Michael Ndwiga who will pocket Sh37 million when the deal is done.
Furious MCAs called for a probe into the deal, saying it was a ploy to siphon money from tax payers and want prosecution of government officials believed to have been involved in the deal.
Nominated MCA Jane-Ann Murithi said the assembly ought to shelf all legislative business to investigate this recently discovered scandal.
Mr Waganagwa told MCAs that the pending bill in his record because the ministries had been split without an elaborate formula for sharing liabilities.
Mr Kithumbu on the other hand did not produce figures for his ministry’s debts before the committee.
The MCAs demanded that the sellers of the land be summoned to the Assembly for further questioning to unravel the mystery.
Makima MCA Phillip Nzangi said the Lands committee was probing the matter.
But the MCAs were also on the spot for Embu County Assembly will pay for gym subscription for its 33 MCAs and 80 staff members, to help them reduce weight.
Speaker Josiah Thiriku said he had noted many Ward Reps had gained weight that could hamper them their legislative duties and should maintain lean.
Speaking while defining the planned activities for the legislature in the 2018/2019 Financial Year, Mr Thiriku encouraged the MCAs to embrace healthy lifestyle by exercising.
“I have realised that members now need to keep fit, all of us have added weight and there is now need to keep fit. We shall be paying subscription for members who want to join the gym to engage in some aerobics or even sauna so that you don’t become overweight,” he told MCAs.
In a bid to boost staff welfare, Mr Thiriku outlined plans to cater for legislative staff welfare by launching a Sh40 Million car loan and mortgage scheme.
He said this would calm a five-year anxiety amongst employees of the assembly who have waited for the scheme to be rolled out to no avail due to lack of funds.
The Speaker who was with Clerk Jim Kauma added that the Assembly will also purchase three sports utility vehicles to help MCAs carry out their oversight role on development projects.
The beneficiaries will be the 20 elected MCAs while plans were underway for construction of the Speaker’s official residence at a cost of Sh25 Million.
He said assembly had moved to beef up security around its precincts after one ward representative expressed fears for her life three weeks ago.
County Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Ireri, said he had noticed inconsistency between the figures stipulated in the County Allocation of Revenue Act and the County fiscal strategy paper submitted by the executive.
He said the Sh7.1 Billion budgetary estimates for the 2018/2019 financial year showed there was a Sh2 billion revenue gap occasioned by pending bills, revenue shortfall and the budget estimate overstatement.
Mr Ireri told members shocked members there was a double entry of conditional grants and loans totalling to Sh500 million and an additional revenue shortfall of Sh666.7million.
Mr Ireri said this meant that that the Embu budget already had a deficit of Sh1.2 billion even before the estimates were taken to the public for incorporation of priority projects.
He said the act of trying to balance between development and recurrent expenditure at the percentage ratio of 30:70 would be difficult due to the enormous deficits occasioned by the miscalculations at the budget formulation stage.
“I am a very worried man. At the point of presentation of the budget, we are already at negative Sh666 million. We have presented a Sh71 billion budget that is way above by Sh666 million,” he told committee members.
The Kagaari South MCA said that despite the shortfall, local purchase orders (LPOs) and local service orders (LSOs) worth Sh500 million had already been drafted and were awaiting payment because the money had been budgeted.
He added that this amount in pending bills had to be paid through the next financial year’s budget.
The Budget Committee’s Vice Chairman Harrison Mwaluko said the only way out would be to shelf development for one whole year in order to pay all pending bills, then resume funding of projects in the next fiscal period.