•The county chiefs have perfected the art of trickery to dodge a Senate oversight committee to account for the billions of taxpayers’ money disbursed to their counties.
•In some occasions, the committee has been forced to invoke powers bestowed on it and issued arrest warrants for the governors. It has also fined others colossal sums for nonappearance for questioning.
The Senate has raised concerns over some 'dodgy and rogue' governors snubbing its summons to account for the billions of taxpayers' money they receive every year.
The governors have been accused of perfecting the art of trickery to dodge the Senate oversight committee to respond to audit queries raised by the Auditor General General.
Often, they cite ‘travel abroad, sickness and toxic environment’ as reasons not to appear before the County Public Accounts and Investments Committee charged with over-sighting the county governments.
Six governors have run into problems with the powerful watchdog committee chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang' for ignoring invites and subsequent summons.
These are Council of Governors chairman and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Cyprian Awiti (Homa Bay), Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni), Mike Sonko (Nairobi) and Salim Mvurya (Kwale) have run into trouble with the committee.
On some occasions, the committee has been forced to invoke its powers to issue arrest warrants. It has also fined others up to Sh500,000 for failure to appear.
“There is no way the governors can dodge this committee. They have 360 days to spend the taxpayers’ money and we are only requesting a day to account for what they are given,” Kajwang' said.
Narok Senator Ledama Olekina said, “The issue of accountability is something very important and we must demand it. There is no reason we should be fighting for more money to go to the county governments and yet governors are not willing to account for it. Shame on them!”
Last week on Monday, the committee issued an arrest warrant against Governor Mutua.
Senator Kajwang' directed Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai to immediately arrest the governor and produce him before the committee to respond to audit queries raised by the Auditor General.
Mutua had ignored summons two weeks ago after he failed to honour an invitation to appear before it on September 18 over queries on 2015-2016, 2016-17 and 2017-18 financial years.
In a letter to the committee, Mutua cited political reasons and his travel abroad for the nonappearance.
He also claimed that the environment in the committee was ‘not conducive for a sober engagement’, saying county senator, Boniface Kabaka, wants to use the committee to advance his personal and political interests.
The committee invoked the powers bestowed upon it by the Constitution and the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act to force the county chief to appear before it.
This was the second time the committee was issuing an arrest warrant for the governor. The first was in 2017 when, under the chairmanship of Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, the committee ordered the then Inspector General of Police, Joseph Boinett, to arrest Governor Oparanya.
The order was, however, not effected. The governor had snubbed the summons and even moved to court to block the committee from summoning him. He lost the case.
POWER TO FINE, ISSUE ARREST WARRANT
Last year, the committee fined governors Sonko and Mvurya Sh500, 000 each for snubbing their summons. They personally paid the fines.
In May, the committee threatened to recall Governor Awiti after he failed to appear before it. The ailing governor had told the committee that he was out of the country for treatment.
Article 125 of the Constitution gives Parliament the power to summon anyone to appear before it to provide information.
Section 19 of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act also provides sanctions against a witness who fails to appear before a House of Parliament or committee.
It states: “Where a witness summoned does not appear or appears but fails to satisfy the relevant House of Parliament or committee, the relevant House or committee will impose a fine not exceeding Sh500,000 having regard to the witness condition in life or the circumstances ..."
Section 19 (3) of the Act states that a House of Parliament or committee may order the arrest of a witness who fails to honour summon.
The CoG has been opposed to governors appearing before the committee, with the chairman instructing governors to ignore the panel. The governors have accused the senators using the sessions to attack, embarrass and settle political scores.
Oparanya, in a phone interview with the Star on Wednesday, faulted the lawmakers of usurping the roles of the MCAs.
“The oversight they are doing is a responsibility cut out for county assemblies. County assemblies have been doing that work. Why should there duplication of roles? This is an issue that we need to sit down and discuss. All these times that governors have been before the Senate, what has been the outcome? What has happened?” he posed.
But Kajwang' criticised CoG chairman of misleading his colleagues, insisting that appearance before the committee is a constitutional requirement and the court confirmed the same in a case filed by Oparanya himself.
“The CoG chair has put out a statement accusing Parliament and this committee of bias and politicisation of issues. We are not politicising anything. If you feel you are being accused of things that are not correct, the decent thing to do is to appear before this committee and set the record straight,” Kajwang' said.
“All the other governors have done the same, in fact, the chairman of CoG has been busy misleading governors not to appear before this committee and yet he appears. When he told governors not to appear, the next day it was his vice chair who was the first to be here. So, I want to urge him not to mislead his colleagues,” he added.
Nominated Senator Millicent Omanga, a member of the committee, called for the amendment of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act to include tougher penalties for witnessed who snub summons.
“This House and the Committee needs to take stiff measures to all other governors who do not want to account for public money. They are behaving as if this money is their pocket money and yet it is public,” she said.