• Treasury has declined to release funds to 14 counties until they clear pending bills.
• Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati says they won't pay.
Essential services could grind to a halt in Bungoma after the Treasury declined to disburse December funds to the county over pending bills.
In a circular from the Treasury, the county has failed to clear pending bills or present a clear and eligible payment plan for its debts. Bungoma is among the 14 counties that missed out on the disbursement. The rest of the counties on Wednesday got theirs.
The issue may hurt the county more after Governor Wycliffe Wangamati vowed not to pay the Sh250 million pending bills. Speaking on Jamhuri Day last year, he accused the previous Kenneth Lusaka administration of failing to document pending bills. He said he will not pay for fictitious debts whose value cannot be traced.
Wangamati castigated Treasury CS Ukur Yatani for dramatising the issue. "The Finance CS should dig deeper and realise that we cannot just clear ghost pending bills without credible details on how the contracts were awarded and performed," he said.
“When I came to power, Bungoma had pending bills of about Sh1.2 billion from the former regime. Up to now, we've managed to clear at least a billion and we are remaining with around Sh250 million.”
Speaking separately, Senator Moses Wetang’ula said the withholding of cash over pending bills was not the right thing to do. He called for an amicable solution.
"This will hurt innocent people. The National Treasurer should instead look for an alternative way of ensuring counties pay pending bills,” he said.
He added that the Treasury itself has huge pending bills and should not pretend to lecture counties over the same. Wetang’ula, however, advised the counties to clear the bills and cautioned against politicising the issue.
Any bankruptcy declaration on Bungoma may hurt its development projects, including the 6.5km Musikoma dual carriageway whose upgrade is underway.