Lawmakers demand probe on county officers' roles in mysterious fires

Five counties have had fire incidents since 2013

In Summary

• The Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations Committee says it's dissatisfied with the responses given by the counties.

• The panel also wants counties to put in place risk management policies to prevent disasters.

Kisumu Finance office after it was gutted.
SUSPICIOUS FIRE: Kisumu Finance office after it was gutted.

A Senate committee has recommended top county officials to be investigated over recurring fire incidents in finance and procurement offices of five devolved units.

In addition, the Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations Committee wants counties to put in place risk management frameworks and policies to mitigate such incidences.

The nine-member team says top finance and procurement officers could be culpable for the mysterious fires in which crucial financial documents have been reduced to ashes.

The panel chaired by Moses Kajwang (Homa Bay) wants the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the officers over integrity and unethical conduct.

“I want to order that we do a letter to the EACC to investigate the officers who have given us the impression that there could be unethical and integrity question in terms of concealment of evidence or destruction of the documents,” Kajwang said.

He made the ruling after the committee received"unconvincing" responses from the counties on the causes of the infernos.

The counties are Migori, Kitui, Homa Bay, Busia and Kisumu.

The committee had written to the counties to provide information on the causes of the fires and any mitigating measures in its investigations into the incidents that have ‘only’ targeted finance offices.

Senator Abshiro Halake (nominated) has sought a statement from the committee on the cause of the fires and how they can be stopped.

According to responses filed and presented to the committee by the counties, the incidents are still under investigations by the DCI.

“The fire incident was reported to the DCI and the investigations are ongoing. The final report will help in ascertaining the cause of the fire and determine the action to be taken,” according to a letter from Kisumu Finance executive George Okong’o.

Okong’o said various items — chairs, extension cables, cabinets, printers and photocopiers — worth Sh2.1 million were destroyed on February 10.

In Kitui, county secretary Joshua Chepchieng wrote to the committee saying the fire that gutted county treasury and neighbouring offices on the night of July 21 and 22, was still under investigations by the DCI.

Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong said a report by the county disaster management team on the fire that destroyed county finance offices on the night of September 24 and 25, did not establish the cause of the blaze.

“At the time of occurrence, some security lights were not functioning, hence increasing the chances of anyone accessing the compound especially during the odd hours of the night,” the governor's  letter says.

From Homa Bay, Isaiah Ogwe said in a letter to the panel that a suspect had been arraigned after investigations into the cause of the fire.

He said the county government has put in place mitigating measures, including acquisition of two fire engines, installation of CCTV cameras, and acquisition of fireproof cabinets and preparation of risk management policy.

In Migori, the county disclosed that the DCI had concluded investigations but its report did not assign culpability on any particular person.

“The fire could have been caused by electric fault since after the first fire was put off, the second building caught fire after two hours,” Governor Okoth Obado told the committee in a letter, referring to the DCI report.

But the committee was dissatisfied with the responses, saying they could not believe them as all the fires have the hallmarks of self-infliction.

“There is a saying in our community that if you steal in your own house, there is recourse because you know where everything is located,” Abshiro said.

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