Auditor-General Edward Ouko has faulted the Tharaka Nithi County government for spending about Sh6.2 million in foreign trips and allowances on three members of the National Assembly who traveled to United States and United Kingdom last year.
Curiously, Governor Muthomi Njuki has not been able to demonstrate whether the trips benefited the county residents according to the audit report for the year ending June 30, 2018.
The expenses were incurred at a time the provision of water and other basic services in the county was a challenge.
The county is also among the 13 in the country that are experiencing hunger, largely blamed on poor planning by county governors and misplaced priorities.
The audit report lists MPs Kareke Mbiuki (Maara), Patrick Munene (Chuka Igamba Ng’ombe) and County Woman Representative Beatrice Nkatha.
The report notes that the governor and the two MPs, Mr Mbiuki, who chairs the National Assembly Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and Mr Munene, used Sh3,287,664 for a trip to the UK even though the purpose of the travel was not clear from the invitation letter.
The report further noted that the payments were made by the chief of staff from an imprest issued to him to facilitate the travel.
“No reason was given as to why the two MPs, who are county employees were paid from the executive’s fund. It has therefore not been possible to ascertain that the expenditure was expended as appropriated and that the executive got value for money,” Mr Ouko says.
The report further notes that Sh1.9 million was used to facilitate and sponsor Ms Nkatha to attend the 62nd Commission on Status of Women (CSW) conference in New York- US last year.
The amount consisted Sh867, 290 in allowances and Sh962, 597 for air tickets. But even as this happened, Mr Ouko notes that there was no formal request from Ms Nkatha to the county administration requesting for the sponsorship to attend the conference.
“There was no specific provision in the county Executive budget for such an expenditure on foreign travel sponsorships,” the report states adding; “There was no back to office reports to show how the residents of Tharaka Nithi benefited from the expenditure on public funds.”
Ms Nkatha is reported to have exited Kenya on March 12, 2018 and returned on March 19, 2019 according to her passport.
However, there was no evidence to confirm, including air tickets, boarding passes and the certificate of participation that she entered and exited the US or attended the conference.
Nevertheless, the passport showed that she was out of Kenya for seven days while she had been paid per diem for 13 days raising more questions.
“In the circumstances, the propriety and value for money could not be ascertained,” the audit states.
Just recently, Mr Ouko recommended that Sh2.5 million expended on two MPs to watch football games in the June-July 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia be recovered by the Sports ministry from the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC).
Mr Ouko argued that PSC, which caters for the MPs’ welfare is the only body mandated to sponsor and pay the allowances of MPs in foreign trips.