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Queries raised over ghost IDPs who got millions from State

Monday July 22 2019

internally displaced persons

Makeshifts belonging to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Nakuru. Auditor-General Edward Ouko has flagged suspicious payments made to fictitious IDPs running into millions of shillings. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

DAVID MWERE
By DAVID MWERE
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The government irregularly paid millions of shillings to people masquerading as internally displaced persons in the last financial year, according to a report by Auditor-General Edward Ouko that raises questions as to whether the anomalies were due to fraud or poor accounting practices.

The report, currently before the National Assembly for consideration, shows the money in question was part of Sh2.7 billion withdrawn from the National Humanitarian Fund at the National Treasury to help Kenyans displaced by, among others, resource conflicts and political violence.

PAYMENTS

Questionable payments running into tens of millions of shillings were made to people without national identity cards and to others who gave duplicate names.

Mr Ouko also notes that millions of shillings were spent on people who did not sign any vouchers.

As a result, he says, “although schedules of payment to internally displaced persons were provided for the audit review”, these anomalies put “the validity and propriety of the expenditures” to question.

The National Treasury was in charge of the fund, but the payment was overseen by the National Coordination Consultative Committee (NCCC) under the Devolution and Planning ministry.

County commissioners that work under the Interior ministry coordinated the county payments.

The Sh2.7 billion was part of a Sh20 billion compensation scheme for IDPs then President Mwai Kibaki’s administration launched during his last term in office. The payment entailed wiring the monies directly to the victims’ bank accounts.

COMPENSATION

In 2013, the Jubilee administration took over the compensation scheme, but corrupt cartels infiltrated the process and registered bogus IDPs at a fee. The fake IDPs later benefited from the fund at the expense of the genuine ones.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly, which is chaired by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, is currently scrutinising the report.

PAC has lined up retinue of witnesses, among them National Treasury Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge, for interrogation.

The report shows that Sh17.8 million was paid to IDPs from 16 counties with duplicate names. Further, for every duplicate name, according to Mr Ouko, only one matched the identification card number provided. The other similar name whose identification card number was provided appeared to belong to a different person, according to data from the National Registration Bureau (NRB).

“Consequently, the validity and propriety of the payments amounting to Sh17.8 million could not be confirmed,” Mr Ouko says.

Scrutiny of the list of IDPs from Turkana, who fall under the category of resource-based conflict, revealed that Sh4.6 million was paid to individuals who did not have national identification cards.

FRESH VETTING

This makes it difficult to confirm whether the IDPs paid were indeed Kenyans or individuals who had crossed over from other areas, including from the neighbouring Uganda and South Sudan.

The report further notes that a sampled list of IDPs’ national identity card numbers revealed that payments amounting to Sh250,000 were made to people whose national identity card numbers did not exist in government databases. This makes it difficult to confirm the validity and propriety of the payments.

The report also notes that there were not expenditure vouchers for Sh7.3 million spent on the construction of IDPs’ houses in Turkana. Another Sh6.6 million, claimed to have been used to run the administrator’s office, was not accounted for.

In June last year, Nakuru High Court Judge Joel Ngugi ordered a fresh vetting of all IDPs in the country who had benefited from the government’s Sh6.5 billion compensation fund.

The money was spent during the 2015/16 financial year as the Jubilee administration campaigned to ensure that all those displaced by the 2007/08 post-election violence were finally settled.

INTEGRATED

The beneficiaries included those who had already integrated with other communities.

The order came after a group of IDPs claimed that a list of beneficiaries provided by the Interior ministry contained 96,000 fake recipients. They claimed that the list contained names of government officials, and that it also contained numerous duplications.

There also was disparity in the payouts as some members received Sh400,000 while others got as low as Sh10,000.

Detectives from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations are pursuing the matter.

In 2017, then Devolution Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, now in charge of the Agriculture docket, reported that the government had disbursed slightly over Sh17.5 billion as compensation to IDPs.