HURDLES

Senate watchdog summons ‘Big Five’ over devolution challenges

Late disbursements, Ifmis breakdowns blamed for cash flow problems in counties

In Summary

• CPAIC chairman Sam Ongeri said the meeting will discuss the problems the 47 devolved units have been facing.

• He elaborated that the key agenda will be the challenges hampering the smooth implementation of budgets.

Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang'o is one of those expected to attend.
SUMMONED: Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang'o is one of those expected to attend.
Image: COURTESY

A Senate oversight committee has summoned five big players in devolution over the teething problems facing county governments.

The County Public Accounts and Investments Committee has invited Attorney General Paul Kihara, Auditor General Nancy Gathungu and Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakango to a round table meeting.

The nine-member panel has also invited Treasury CS Ukur Yatani and Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya to the meeting scheduled for next week.

CPAIC chairman Sam Ongeri (Kisii) said the meeting will discuss challenges bedeviling the 47 devolved units.

“We are compiling a list of issues that we will be discussing with them. There are certain areas where we see there is need for amendment either in the Public Finance Management Act or Public Audit Act or other areas,” Ongeri told the Star.

Key on the agenda will be the challenges hampering the smooth implementation of budgets in counties.

Ongeri said they will discuss concerns raised about the Integrated, Financial Management Information System (Ifmis) and late disbursement of exchequer to the counties.

In most of its meetings with the county bosses over audit queries, the committee heard that late disbursement of resources and frequent breakdown of Ifmis have hampered budget implementation.

Former Auditor General Edward Ouko flagged low absorption of budget in most counties in his previous audit reports.

Most governors have blamed ifmis and late exchequer releases for the under-absorption during meetings with the oversight committee.

The county bosses say the Treasury has been releasing monies too close to the end of the financial year, rendering it impossible for the devolved units to utilise the cash.

Ifmis, in particular, has been blamed for the cash flow challenges in the counties due to frequent breakdowns.

Last year, former CoB Agnes Odhiambo said in her end-of-term report that ministries, departments and agencies and county governments experience delays in uploading procurement plans and budgets into the system.

“The delay in uploading the plans and budgets into the Ifmis affected the implementation of the work plans,” Odhiambo said.

In May 2019, there was an uproar after it emerged that the system misallocated Sh10 billion to county governments. The system showed that the county had spent money on vote heads outside their purview.

A report of the Auditor General on Ifmis’ effectiveness between July 2010 and June 2014 released last year showed inadequacies in the system meant to streamline financial management.

The report poked holes in the security management administration, stability, performance, integrity, reliability, business continuity, data recovery and network infrastructure of Ifmis.

The system showed that the county had spent money on vote heads outside their purview. The Ifmis has also been mentioned in scandals that have hit the National Youth Service.

The meeting will also propose legislative changes to seal loopholes that that have affected effective budget implementation.

“Most counties are not able to absorb their funds because of late disbursement of money by the National Treasury. We want to look at how we can strengthen the law so that we seal all these loopholes,” Ongeri said.

 

- mwaniki fm