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Auditor-General Edward queries counties’ travel, advertising expenditure

Monday January 7 2019

Auditor-General Edward Ouko

Auditor-General Edward Ouko. He has indicated in a report that counties are not practising financial transparency. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

GRACE GITAU
By GRACE GITAU
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Auditor-General Edward Ouko has questioned the expenses incurred by counties in travel and advertising costs in the 2016-2017 financial year, when they gobbled up Sh12.15 billion.

In his latest report, Mr Ouko says that counties' failure to produce documents to support some of their expenditure could indicate misuse of funds in a year of heightened political activity.

The counties spent Sh12.15 billion on domestic and foreign travel in the financial year ended June 30, 2017, compared with Sh11.03 billion in the 2015/2016 fiscal year.

Bomet County, then under Governor Isaac Ruto, paid Sh8.7 million to Northwood Agencies Ltd and Chaka Ventures for hiring helicopters.

ACCOUNTABILITY

However, during audit, the executives did not produce procurement records or local service orders to confirm how the suppliers were identified, selected and awarded.

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“The journeys and eventual payments could not be presented for audit review,” the auditor said.

The county spent a whopping Sh74 million on public participation, but could account for only Sh15 million.

Mr Ouko questioned how the remaining Sh58 million was spent, since there were no supporting documents.

“The public participation was not supported by participatory structures as defined in the regulations. The venues and invitations of persons did not adhere to any defined criteria,” he said.

Garissa County spent Sh165 million on domestic travel and allowances, but the audit exposed irregularities in the payments.

MEETING

They include lack of supporting documents such as work tickets, invitation letters, or attendance registers during payment, casting doubt on the genuineness of the expenditure.

“No imprests were issued to the officers prior to their travel and, therefore, the source of the funds spent by the officers was not known,” the report read.

The auditor poked holes in the Sh8 million incurred by the county during a consultative meeting for sub-county and ward administrators in February, March and April.

According to payment documents, two meetings were held concurrently in March.

“The officers were paid allowances while attending the two alleged meetings. It was not clear how the same administrators were invited to two meetings, which were held during the same period,” the report says.

The same county spent Sh34 million on fuel, while Nandi County spent Sh53 million on the same.

FUNDING

Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony was put on the spot over questionable payment of 13.5 million to the Council of Governors, when his office had budgeted for Sh4.2 million for intergovernmental relations.

“Documents acknowledging receipt of funds paid were not presented for audit. In addition, the basis upon which the amount was computed and paid was not possible,” the auditor noted.

Nyamira County was put on the spot for paying Sh12.5 million to the Council of Governors without the approval of the assembly.

The auditor wondered why the county incurred the expenditure when the national government funds the council's operations.

In Kilifi, there was an unexplained difference of Sh130 million in the governor's office.

While the governor’s recurrent budget was indicated as Sh376 million, the office spent only Sh300 million.

But the schedules provided to support expenditure amounted to Sh413 million.

ALLOWANCES

In Homa Bay County, the Auditor-General could not validate the accuracy of air tickets worth Sh32 million.

Of the Sh77 million spent of local travel, Isiolo County could not account for Sh7 million in accommodation expenses.

“Consequently, the accuracy and propriety of domestic travel and subsistence of Sh47 million could not be confirmed,” he said.

In Kirinyaga, the auditor found that some employees were paid allowances for doing their normal work.

And three months before the General Election, Kisumu County paid nearly Sh6 million to a media consultancy firm to publish a newspaper in Dholuo and English at the expense of projects that aid in service delivery.

“The management did not explain what value the newspaper would have for the community since there were higher priority projects that were not carried out,” the auditor indicated.

VOUCHERS

Meanwhile, Migori Governor Okoth Obado’s administration could not account for the Sh354 million spent on domestic travel.

“The management has not availed for audit review accounting documents such as payment vouchers, approval of journeys… Without this documentation, the expenditure for domestic travel could not be confirmed,” he said.

The county also spent Sh264 million on printing, advertising and information services, exceeding its Sh50 million by Sh174 million.

The county did not produce payment vouchers and procurement documents to support the expenditure.

In Mombasa, Governor Hassan Joho’s administration irregularly spent Sh585 million on “other expenses”, when only Sh492 million was budgeted, ending up with an expenditure of Sh1 billion.

OVERPAY

The county failed to avail for audit prior approval which, according to Mr Ouko, could be an indication of unauthorised reallocation of funds, contrary to Section 154 of the Public Finance Management Act.

Former Tharaka-Nithi Governor Samson Ragwa’s per diem during a trip to Dubai was inflated, resulting in an overpayment.

According to the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, the governor's per diem entitlement was Sh65,600 per day, but he was paid 153,578.