Twelve counties in Mt Kenya and North Eastern regions spent Sh2.4 billion in domestic and foreign trips, amid reports that ward representatives were fleecing the public through fictitious claims.
The counties include Kiambu, Nyeri, Marsabit, Murang’a, Embu, Tharaka Nithi, Isiolo, Wajir, Meru, Kirinyaga, Laikipia and Mandera.
According to the Controller of Budget Implementation report for the financial year 2017/2018, members of county assemblies in the devolved units gobbled up Sh333 million in allowances and Sh1.3 billion on local and international travel.
Kiambu MCAs led in expenditure on local and foreign travel, at Sh208 million, followed by Meru and Nyeri counties at Sh160 million and Sh143 million, respectively.
Wajir Governor Mohamed Abdi and his county executive recorded the highest amount of travel expenses, at Sh221 million, followed by Marsabit and Kiambu counties at Sh154 million and Sh116 million, respectively.
Each MCA in Mandera on average earned Sh120,000 in allowances per month, while their counterpart in Isiolo pocketed Sh75,000 monthly.
Nyeri, Laikipia and Tharaka Nithi MCAs earned between Sh38,000 and Sh23,000 per month.
Kiambu ward representatives exhausted their budget allocation on allowances after spending Sh56 million, while those in Mandera surpassed the Salaries and Remuneration Commission's (SRC) recommended monthly cap of Sh80,000.
Last week, Devolution Principal Secretary Charles Sunkuli moved to reduce wasteful spending in counties after issuing guidelines restricting foreign travel by MCAs and county officials.
According to Mr Sunkuli, the guidelines, which include submitting a benefit statement and an estimated cost of the trip, are meant to streamline and harmonise foreign travel across the public service.
But MCAs have opposed the new guidelines and have demanded that the Principal Secretary withdraws the circular.
County Assemblies Forum Secretary-General Eric Wamumbi defended the many trips made by MCAs, insisting that they assist in capacity building.
“The money MCAs are spending while travelling has been budgeted for and approved. We have not exceeded the funds and the ceiling set,” he said.
The latest Auditor General’s report indicates that MCAs are illegally earning sitting allowances while others are exploiting the domestic and local travel avenue to earn more.
Concerns have been raised by Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo that counties are overspending on the recurrent expense, resulting in a decline in the amount channelled to development.
The report singled out only three counties — Marsabit, Kilifi and Kitui — for reining in recurrent expenditure.
The Public Finance Management Regulations 2015 has set the limit of the counties’ expenditure on wages and benefits at 35 per cent of the total revenue.