The Meru County government is on the spot for spending millions of shillings on rearing earthworms and black flies in the 2017/2018 financial year, a project that has turned out to be a white elephant.
According to Auditor-General Edward Ouko, the county government paid Sh4.3 million for the earthworms project without a needs assessment.
Out of this, Sh2.5 million was for the supply of 1,000 eco-tosha materials for earthworms and Sh1.8 million was spent on 600 plastic drums. The plastic drums were to be used in rearing of earthworms and black flies in the 45 wards.
“However, no documentary evidence was [produced] for audit review to show that the materials had been delivered as at the end of audit in November 2018…the propriety and accountability of the Sh2.5 million…could not be confirmed,” the auditor-general observed.
According to the report, the drums remained idle at the county stores six months after delivery. The auditor-general also cited inflation of the price of plastic drums from Sh1,000 (market price) to Sh3,000.
“…The total cost of Sh1.8 million was exorbitant compared to the market price of Sh600,000 hence casting doubt on the value for money spent on the procurement of 600 plastic drums…” the report states.
Meru County Assembly Agriculture Committee Chairman Paul Bagine said the earthworms project was meant to support poultry farming in the county.
“We are waiting for a report from the executive to look into it. But the project did not proceed because there was no money to execute it,” Mr Bagine said.
Contacted, Meru Agriculture Executive Karwitha Kiugu said, “Give me some time, I will give interesting information on earthworms and insects for animal feeds.”
Also questioned by the auditor-general is the county’s ballooning wage bill for the 4,584 employees, which jumped by Sh1.26 billion in one financial year.
According to the report, the county paid Sh4.39 billion in employees remuneration in 2017/2018 compared to Sh3.12 billion paid in the 2016/2017 financial year.
The wage bill comprised of Sh1.72 billion in basic salaries, Sh77 million in wages, Sh2.46 billion in allowances and Sh124.2 million as pension remittances.
The county executive also spent Sh139.8 million on domestic travel and Sh17.8 million on foreign travel. Out of this, Sh6.3 million was not accounted for due to lack of attendance schedules, invitation letters, evidence of travel and back to office reports.
The wage bill is above the set limit of 35 percent of the approved budget as set in the Public Finance Management Act.
Mr Ouko also cited irregular employment of staff where the office of the governor hired four advisors under positions which were not budgeted for. The positions were not established by the County Public Service Board as required by law.
The office of the governor is also on the spot for recruiting an unqualified chief legal advisor.
According to the auditor-general, Governor Kiraitu Murungi’s chief legal advisor had four years’ experience contrary to the requirement of 10 years’ experience as a legal practitioner.
The report has also faulted the payment of Sh8.6 million subsistence allowance by the executive to MCAs against the principle of separation of powers.
Members of Meru County Assembly’s health, lands, budget and agriculture committees were paid the money for attending workshops on budget making.
During the 2017/2018 financial year, the audit also found inconsistencies in the payroll where an ECDE teacher received double salaries in July and August 2017.
Meru also continues to contravene the National Cohesion and Integration Act, 2008 which states that no public establishment shall have more than one third of its staff from the same ethnic community.
About 88 percent of the 4584 workers is from the Meru community.