Is IFMIS not a financial mismanagement system?

Tuesday May 21 2019

By JOHN WALUBENGO
More by this Author

IFMIS, the government Integrated Financial Management Information System is back in the news for the wrong reasons – again.

Three years ago, it was at the centre of the NYS1 scandal, a year later, it featured in the NYS2 scandal, and most recently, it is being blamed by some county governments for allowing them to ''spend'' money that belonged to the National Government.

IFMIS allowed the County Government of Kiambu and others to spend money on Peace keeping efforts in Sudan, to graciously pay the retirement benefits of previous presidents as well as meet the cost of national economic planning.

The figures lost are not yet firmed up, but various reports show that we may have lost not less than Sh10 Billion across five counties.

Frankly speaking, I am personally losing perspective of what a billion shillings really means. Particularly after the government increased lecturer’s salaries by a meagre Sh53 shillings per month following the protracted strike in 2017.

But I digress.

THIKA SUPERHIGHWAY

To put some perspective to the money Kenyans are losing in the so called IFMIS system, let us all remember that Thika Superhighway was put up with about Sh23 Billion.

So basically some small cartel of greedy Kenyans have swallowed up half of Thika Super Highway - in a single financial year – while it took the rest of us five or more financial years to expense with the Thika Superhighway budget.

This IFMIS thing is not rocket science. It is, at its basic level, a standard Oracle Database system. Oracle works pretty well in many private and public sector organisations within and beyond Kenya but seems to have challenges when deployed in government.

How comes this Oracle system cannot work well in Treasury as it does in Safaricom or other blue chip corporates? That is the billion-dollar question.

And the blame game between county governors, National Treasury and the Office of the Auditor-General is really part of the confusion Kenyans have decided to live with.

Pretending to bring in investigators from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) is also part of the charade designed to hoodwink Kenyans that things are under serious investigations.

If you care to recall, the DCI came on board to investigate NYS1 and NYS2 a while ago. Other than rounding up suspects in exaggerated and dramatic style, very little evidence or progress has been made in the courts.

Which brings in the next game plan. Blame the courts. All this is part of a grand scheme to take Kenyans round and round in blame game while the heist continues uninterrupted.

Any right-thinking thief knows that one cannot successfully steal a billion shillings in Kenya without sparing a good chunk of it to spread around the three arms government that will then entertain us in a blame game.

To keep stealing public funds, the thief simply needs to budget part of the corrupt proceeds to sort out sections of the Executive, Parliament or Judiciary who will then sing the loudest in public functions about the need to end corruption.

WAKE UP

WaKenya (Kenyans), we do need to wake up and smell the coffee.

Think about it. The recent drama about IFMIS reporting capabilities is similar to your local finance manager telling the shareholders that for a whole year, his branch was operating on a false budget - but only came to realise this when the report went to the Senate.

Then his boss from Headquarters, the financial director, confirms to the Senate that this was indeed true. One is left wondering whom between the local finance manager and the HQ finance director is the bigger thief.

Put differently, Kenyans are meant to understand that both the county and national governments executed wrong budget lines for a whole year and none of them noticed any anomaly.

This can only happen in Kenya. When everyone thought that the notorious Kabura and Co, they of the NYS1 comedy, was the worst, we wake up to new comedy everyday.

This new case is not even something for the DCI to investigate. It is a simple case of total and deliberate professional negligence and the folks concerned at both levels of government should be cooling their heels at home.

The fact that no one has so far been fired is quite telling and does not require the DCI to come in and execute the usual dramatic arrests that are more often than not designed to sanitise the process.

After all Kenyans have a short memory and will move onto the next scandal after the arrests and will be least bothered to discover that nothing fruitful in terms of convictions happened to the suspects.

We must concede that despite many years of operation, IFMIS is not actually a financial management system. It is perhaps a well designed financial mismanagement system on steroids.

But then again, mta do? What will you do?

Mr Walubengo is a lecturer at Multimedia University of Kenya, Faculty of Computing and IT.

Email: [email protected], Twitter: @Jwalu