Kiraitu bows to pressure, will pay Sh723 million bills

Projects likely to stall as millions of shillings deducted from departments in revised budget

In Summary

• The MCAs who are on a recess were called for a special meeting to help end the crisis.

• Sh188 million was deducted from the roads and transport department to cater for pending bills

Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi
TO PAY: Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi
Image: FILE

Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi has finally bowed to Treasury pressure and will pay Sh723 million owed to contractors.

Kiraitu had maintained his stand that he won’t pay contractors who had won tenders during former governor Peter Munya’s regime.

But on Tuesday, the county assembly approved Sh723 million to pay the contractors.

Kiraitu’s flagship project of drilling boreholes is the most affected by the supplementary budget laid in the house by budget committee chairman Mwanganthia Julius Mbijiwe.

A total of Sh188 million was deducted from the roads and transport department to cater for pending bills.

Kiegoi/Antubochiu MCA Kimathi Ithibua and his Municipality counterpart Elius Murega said the county government had faced a cash crisis due to the pnding bills.

Treasury CS Ukur Yatani had directed that counties that did not clear outstanding arrears owed to contractors would not receive any money from the national government.

“We had recommended the county to settle pending bills two years ago. We even went for a retreat.  We had legitimate expectations and we must stop escorting others. There will be so many questions to answer to my electorate on delay of flagship projects. Why should we wait until payment is compulsory?” Murega said.

The health department was deducted Sh161 million, public service and legal affairs (Sh119 million) ,  trade and cooperatives (Sh103 million) and agriculture (Sh91 million).

A total of Sh50 million was taken from construction of MCAs' office block and speaker Joseph Kaberia’s office, Sh19.9million from the office of the governor and Sh73 million from ICT.

The MCAs who are on a recess were called for a special meeting to help end the crisis.

The assembly majority leader said he had seen contractors endure a lot of suffering, adding that moving forward it would be prudent for the MCAs to verify any pending bills to avoid development projects stalling.

Nominated MCA Purity Nkirote said it had become suicidal to do business with government owing to delays in payments. This was denying young people and women the opportunity to apply for 30 per cent of tenders.

In 2018, Kiraitu told the Senate County Public Accounts and Investment Committee that out of the Sh1.1 billion debt he inherited only Sh200 million was payable.

"We will not pay any pending bills that are not genuine because we don’t want to put ourselves in trouble. If any of the individuals believes they have been treated unfairly, they are free to go to court. If any of them brings us a court order requiring us to pay, we shall do so promptly," he said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta issued a directive during the 56th Madaraka Day celebrations that all pending bills should be paid before the end of financial year 2018-2019.

The National Treasury issued a ultimatum that all counties pay eligible pending bills. However, the majority of counties were unable to meet the deadline thereby leading to the National Treasury to invoke its powers to stop the transfer of funds to the non-compliant counties including Meru.

The county had Sh2.26 billion accumulated pending bills by financial year 2017-2018.