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Vihiga MCAs freeze flagship projects to clear Sh800m bills

Wednesday November 27 2019

Vihiga's Wilber Ottichilo and Patrick Saisi

Vihiga Governor Wilber Ottichilo (R) and Deputy Governor Patrick Saisi address a press conference at the county headquarters on August 3, 2018. PHOTO | ONDARI OGEGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

DERICK LUVEGA
By DERICK LUVEGA
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Vihiga MCAs on Wednesday moved to freeze all flagship projects undertaken by the Executive to enable settlement of bills totalling about Sh800 million. 

The move was in the wake of the National Treasury's decision to stop transfer of funds to 15 counties including Vihiga.

The counties are yet to honour the June 1 presidential decree requiring devolved units to clear their bills.

Thirty eight members of the Vihiga assembly reached the decision during debate on a procedural motion sponsored by majority whip Victor Ijaika, which they all supported.

The decision will trigger revision of the supplementary budget passed last week, in which only Sh100 million was allocated to pending bills after the assembly reallocated funds from various departments.

Mr Ijaika tabled the motion to enable MCAs discuss Treasury's decision.

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PRIORITY

MCAs said the freeze on major projects directly funded from public coffers will enable the administration to prioritise payment of bills, some of which were inherited from the previous administration.

Affected projects include the Sh250 million hospital plaza, a Sh39 million modern mortuary, Sh130 million official residences for the governor and deputy governor and a Sh95 million data centre.

The decision will not affect donor-funded projects that include the Sh1.6 billion Belgium-funded water project and the Sh1.25 billion Vihiga Municipality project that is funded by the World Bank.

After the procedural motion was passed, the assembly released a message saying ward representatives were dismayed "over lack of good will by the Executive to clear pending bills even after allocation had been made".

Mr Manoah Mboku, the temporary Speaker at the time of debate, directed  the Implementation committee to ascertain the status of the current financial year's budget absorption and report back to the House.

ABSORPTION

When he addressed the assembly in October, Senator George Khaniri protested against what he termed low absorption of exchequer releases by Dr Wilber Ottichilo's administration.

Mr Khaniri noted that reports by the controller of budget showed Vihiga only absorbed 23 percent of development funds, leaving a large chunk of unspent money at the end of the financial year.

The assertion by Senator Khaniri were however disputed by Dr Ottichilo who said absorption of public fund had improved since he took office in August 2017.

Last week, the assembly approved Sh100 million towards paying of pending bills but the latest decision to halt projects is seen as a major boost towards the quest to have the bills payed to enable cash flow in the county.

Dr Ottichilo recently assured that pending bills will be paid and noted that he had held a discussion with Treasury Cabinet Secretary Mr Ukur Yattani over the matter.