The budget standoff in Kitui County took has taken a new twist after Governor Charity Ngilu moved to court seeking orders to compel County Assembly Speaker George Ndotto to release a statutory letter that will allow the executive to access devolved funds.
The executive, in a suit filed at Kitui Law Courts claim that the Speaker’s failure to communicate the assembly's decision regarding the 2019-2020 approved budget had made it difficult to access funds from the National Treasury to pay county staff salaries for the month of June.
Mrs Ngilu resorted to court action after the Controller of Budget wrote to the Kitui Finance executive advising that her office can only authorise the release of funds after it is furnished with the letter from County Assembly Speaker as required by the law.
The assembly passed the county budget on June 28 and the Speaker was supposed to communicate in writing on or before July 5, which is within the seven days window provided in law.
The executive argues that the Speaker has no latitude in law to delay the communication of the assembly’s decision beyond the seven days stipulated under Section 134 (3) of the Public Finance Management Act.
It further argues that failure by Speaker Ndotto to carry out his administrative duty, expressly required of him by law, is malicious, unreasonable and unfair to the residents of Kitui County and amounts to abuse of office.
“The provisions of Section 134 of PFM Act are mandatory and leave no discretion on the part of the Speaker not to act. It stipulates a strict timeline of seven days within which he must act,” reads the suit filed in court.
In the suit, the county executive says that the Controller of Budget and the director of Ifmis cannot act on the budget estimates from Kitui since the Speaker has refused to issue the relevant letter.
This, the executive says, has occasioned consequences like delay of June salaries for all county staff, who are suffering, and that their unions have already issued a strike notice.
“Services to all county public hospitals are slowly grinding to a halt. There is no money to procure supplies and there is a stock out for key medical essentials including medicines and non-pharmaceuticals, which has caused untold suffering to patients who look up to such facilities for treatment,” reads an affidavit sworn by Chief Officer for County Planning Justus Makau.
The suit papers reveal that Mr Ndotto last week led a delegation to the National Treasury and the office of the Controller of Budget, seeking to block funding for the Kitui County government and allegedly disowned correspondence from his office signed by the assembly clerk.
The county executive has been locked in a budget standoff with the Assembly led by Speaker Ndotto.
Mr Ndotto previously unsuccessfully tried to unseat Mrs Ngilu as the MP for Kitui Central.