alexa After NYS, war on graft shifts to the 47 counties - Daily Nation

After NYS, war on graft shifts to the 47 counties

Friday June 1 2018

Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti

Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti (centre) before a parliamentary committee in March. PHOTO| FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

JOHN KAMAU
By JOHN KAMAU
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KENNEDY KIMANTHI
By KENNEDY KIMANTHI
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With counties being flagged as the other citadels of corruption and fraud, investigators are now scrutinising reports of the Auditor-General and poring over documents as the war on corruption moves to a new frontier – the doors of the governors.

How deep the house cleaning exercise will go, and how many will fall, is a matter already causing fear in the counties which had become comfort zones of sleaze.

“We have said that enough is enough and we are widening our web. Any accounting officer out there should be ready for us,” the Director of Criminal Investigations, Mr George Kinoti, told the Nation yesterday.

Billions of shillings have been wasted and stolen in the counties – most of the previous investigations came to nought – as a new crop of greedy tenderpreneurs emerged in the devolved units. The failure to successfully prosecute the cases showcased the impotence of both the Judiciary and the investigating agencies as a new crop of supplies tycoons continued to enjoy funds siphoned from public accounts.

“And it is not only the counties, all institutions where public funds are used should wait for us. They won’t know the time or the hour. But we are going for them,” said Mr Kinoti.

MISUSE OF TAXPAYERS MONEY

For instance, the Auditor-General had in 2016 flagged Sh20 billion for the Nairobi County which exposed the chaotic running of the devolved units, theft and misuse of taxpayers money.

The county had also failed to bank Sh69.5 million it earned in revenue while the city’s assembly could not account for Sh207 million it used in the purchase of goods and services.

Also targeted are the usual cash dispensers, Kenya Pipeline Corporation, Ministry of Health, Kenya Power, Ketraco and the National Cereals and Produce Board, among others.

While the initial focus has been on the National Youth Service, which has seen several heads roll, the renewed push has cast the spotlight on the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) which has been sidelined as a participant in the current purge. Already, reports say that Aldai MP Cornely Serem has filed a motion seeking to disband EACC which appears to have lost its place as the body mandated to investigate the vice. 

This week, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Noordin Haji, took to court those implicated in the theft of NYS funds among them the former Principal Secretary Lilian Mbogo, two former Directors-General, Benjamin Ndubai and Capt Sam Muchuki, together with traders and NYS officials.

CORRUPTION CZARS

This came as President Uhuru Kenyatta asked the investigating agencies not to spare anyone in the new purge on corruption czars.

President Kenyatta has already gained the support of the Heads of Mission of 15 Western countries who said they welcome “his statements and actions to address the corruption scourge”.

Interestingly, they only recognised the efforts of the Director of Public Prosecutions and Directorate of Criminal Investigations and deliberately left out EACC. Although EACC is cushioned by the constitution, pundits now say that the body is beyond repair and is to blame for the increasing tendency to pilfer public funds.

Two years ago, Parliament was told that the war on corruption was being lost due to turf wars between the Office of then Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko and EACC.

“The incessant turf wars between the two offices have compromised the war on corruption,” said Ababu Namwamba, the Budalang’i MP who had proposed to change the law to give EACC some prosecutorial powers.

LOTS OF DRAMA

As investigators turn to the auditor-general’s reports and the IFMIS as their starting point, Kenyans will be treated to lots of drama.

In the latest report for the 2015/16 financial year, Auditor-General Edward Ouko, for instance, says that Baringo County paid Sh20,000 for a wooden meat chop board and Sh54,000 for a pot stacking rack. The items appeared to have been fabricated in a local workshop, according to him.

The audit also raised questions on the construction of a cafeteria in the county assembly at a cost of Sh17 million.

In Kisumu, 29 MCAs and assembly staff were alleged to have travelled to Kampala for a Ward Fund Development meeting where a Sh10 million expense was incurred.

In the same financial year, Sh120,000 was paid to Izaak Walton Inn for the Embu County Assembly’s Education Committee conference on November 16-30, 2015. But a review of the committee’s attendance indicated that the committee was at Utalii Hotel in Nairobi during that period.

TRAINING ABROAD

The audit also revealed that Lamu County Assembly used Sh22 million to fly MCAs and assembly staff for training abroad, which could have been handled locally. Mr Ouko said firms which offered the training to the assembly were all locally based. MCAs were flown abroad for conferences which could have been held locally at reasonable rates, he said. And with no prosecution arising from such flagged cases, it is no wonder that foreign envoys are now calling for strong institutions.

“Kenyans need strong, reliable institutions and systems that reduce the opportunities for corruption,” the envoys said in a statement released on Wednesday.

Also, the envoys statement was meant to send a warning that their countries won’t offer grounds to hide the stolen loot. Previously, billions of shillings stolen from public coffers were stashed in either offshore accounts or in Western capitals.

“Individuals or organisations found guilty of stealing should be held accountable, to include forfeiting the proceeds of their crimes,” said the envoys.

Another case which would be on the radar is at Kiambu county assembly which was flagged for organising three workshops where MCAs and assembly staff earned allowances of more than Sh35 million.

CONSULTATIVE MEETINGS

The report says the assembly planned three similar consultative meetings in May 2016 where a total of Sh11.8 million was paid to staff and MCAs during the workshop.

For Machakos Assembly,  they failed to explain an expenditure of Sh119 million paid to staff as salaries.

According to the report, the annual basic salaries for staff amounting to Sh154 million differed with the integrated payroll and personnel database system total annual basic pay amount of Sh35 million by Sh119 million.

Further, 30 new employees introduced into the payroll on September 1, 2015, were unsupported with proof of recruitment and subsequent placement.

In Makueni, there were irregular construction works of an office block, wall padding, septic tank, and drainage system, parking bay and landscaping, cafeteria and kitchen, all totalling to Sh27.5 million.

DISCREPANCIES

At the Coast, billions of shillings spent by six counties in the region for the year ending 2016 could not be accurately accounted for. Mombasa led with discrepancies amounting to Sh7 billion, followed by Lamu with Sh5 billion.

Kwale could not explain Sh20 million as reflected in its fund balance forwarded to the auditor. For Kilifi, Sh25 million did not reconcile with the statements of receipt and payments, which differ with a summary of appropriation.

Tana River and Taita-Taveta financial statements did not comply with the requirements of International Public Sector Accounting Standards.