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Counties with pending bills stare at legal action

Wednesday December 18 2019
By SAMWEL OWINO

The government has said it will resort to legal means to compel county governments that are yet to settle all pending bills to do so promptly.

The National Development Coordination and Communication committee chaired by Interior CS Fred Matiang’i on Wednesday warned county governments against giving unnecessary excuses about pending bills despite getting funds from the government.

ALLOCATIONS

“We will use all lawful means to ensure the pending bills are paid and we are not going to budge. It is not fair to treat our people the way the county governments are doing. Those pending bills must be paid,” Dr Matiang’i said.

He accused governors of prioritising buying big cars for themselves instead of paying bills to suppliers who offered them services.

The Interior CS disclosed that the government had already paid Sh9 billion, part of its pending bills, and the balance would be paid in two months’ time.

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In a statement, Treasury CS Ukur Yatani said as of Wednesday, only Elgeyo Marakwet, Homa Bay, Kajiado, Kericho, Kilifi, Kwale, Laikipia, Makueni, Nyamira, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Uasin Gishu and Baringo had cleared their pending bills.

“In light of the fact that the National Treasury has consistently released full allocations of the equitable share of revenue due to county governments since the rollout of the devolved system of government, there is no reason for non-payment of eligible pending bills,” he said.

ITEMISED LIST

Going forward, Mr Yatani said, it would be a requirement that county governments provide monthly status reports that will include an itemised list of all the bills paid.

A week ago, the National Treasury released Sh11 billion to 18 counties after they promised to settle the pending bills.

Another Sh7 billion was released to 12 counties that had settled their pending bills.

County governments have been complaining of late disbursement of funds by the national treasury.

 Last week, the High Court has ordered National Treasury and Controller of Budget to release funds to 35 counties which are yet to receive their equitable share.

This is after the Council of Governor sued Treasury, Controller of Budget and the Attorney General for failing to timely disburse the equitable share of revenue as is required by the provisions of the Public Finance Management Act.

FICTITIOUS

High Court Judge Weldon Korir directed the two institutions to adhere to the disbursements of funds by 15th of every month in accordance with the Constitution.

The National Treasury had withheld the devolved units' allocation due to pending bills.

Last month, the government issued a directive asking the county governments and State departments that had not cleared their pending bills to do so before November 30.

President Uhuru Kenyatta had ordered the state ministries, departments and agencies during Madaraka Day celebrations to clear their pending bills.

Last month, the Senate called on the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to probe the Sh130 billion pending bills in counties, amid claims of inflation and fictitious amounts owed to contractors.

Outgoing Auditor General Edward Ouko in his report for the financial year ending June 2018 revealed that at least Sh35 billion of the pending bills in the counties were fake.

RESOURCES

Dr Matiang’i, accompanied by Cabinet Secretaries Eugene Wamalwa (Devolution), Simon Chelugui (Water), Ukur Yatani (acting Treasury), Peter Munya (Trade and Industry), Mwangi Kiunjuri (Agriculture), Keriako Tobiko (Environment), Najib Balala (Tourism), Joe Mucheru (ICT),Farida Karoney (Lands), Charles Keter (Energy and Petroleum) and Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, said counties have all the resources at their disposal to pay pending bills.

Other members at press briefing held at Harambee House were Attorney-General Paul Kihara, Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o and Central Bank of Kenya Governor Patrick Njoroge.

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