• In a report tabled in the Senate and adopted by the members detailing the concerns, the lawmakers said the issues cut across all the 47 county governments.
• Their assessment is based on their scrutiny audit general reports for the 2019-20 financial year that consistently flagged them.
As the curtain falls on the terms of the current governors, senators have raised concerns about 13 issues that hindered the transparent and prudent use of public resources.
In a report tabled in the Senate and adopted by the members detailing the concerns, the lawmakers said the issues cut across all the 47 county governments.
Their assessment is based on their scrutiny of the Auditor General's reports for the 2019-20 financial year that consistently flagged them.
The Senate’s County Public Accounts and Investments committee examined the audit reports and quizzed governors to explain the queries flagged by the auditor.
The nine-member panel is chaired by Migori Senator Ochilo Ayacko.
“The committee observed that the reports of the Auditor General contained cross-cutting audit issues that kept recurring,” the senators said in the report.
Most counties, they said, are not submitting their financial records to the Auditor General for scrutiny to ascertain the prudent use of public funds.
“The committee noted that most county executives did not avail the relevant supporting documents to the Auditor General during the audit exercise as required by the Public Audit Act, 2015,” the report states.
In the report that was endorsed by the House, the committee recommended that governors take administrative action against officers who fail to provide the documents.
The senators also said that most counties have weaknesses in executing their budgets, with some not adhering to the set ceilings for programmes, votes and sub-votes.
Some counties are either overutilising or underutilising their appropriated funds.
“In some instances, funds were re-allocated to items that were not budgeted for and without prior approval by either the Controller of Budget or the relevant county assembly,” the legislators said.
In addition, counties experienced delays in exchequer releases from the National Treasury, thereby hampering programme implementation and budget execution.
“The committee also observed that the counties had challenges in meeting targets for their own source revenues collection,” the report states.
Unauthorised allocation and re-allocation of funds without adherence to the PFM Act, 2012 also hindered the effectiveness of public funds.
The committee recommended that county executives should strictly adhere to the budget ceilings for development and recurrent expenditures as stipulated by the annual County Allocation of Revenue Act.
The senators also cited non-compliance with relevant laws by most executives. Most counties disregard PFM (County Governments) Regulations, 2015 on fiscal discipline.
“The committee observed that the county executives’ wage bill during the FY 2019-20 was more than 35 per cent of the county's total receipts. The higher wage bill is a threat to the object of devolution, as provided for in Article 174(f) of the Constitution,” they said in the report.
Most counties have also disregarded Treasury’s directive to strictly process their payments through automated integrated financial management information systems contrary to the Act.
“Payments outside the IFMIS platform could be an avenue to bypass financial controls and may lead to possible misappropriation of funds,” the report stated.
The senators also said a huge chunk of public funds are sinking into the hands of their employees in the form of imprest, which the devolved units have failed to recover.
They urged the governors to take administrative action on any imprest holder who inordinately delay surrendering the imprest.
Most counties, the report showed, lack approved staff establishments to guide the recruitment of new staff.
This has led to haphazard hiring of staff, in most cases, far beyond the required limit.
“The committee noted that a number of county governments were still employing a huge number of temporary employees.”
“Further the committee noted that a number of counties did not include all its employees in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Database system,” they said in the report.
Illegal payments to the Council of Governors, delay in project implementation, and lack of fixed assets register are the other areas threatening proper utilisation of public money.
The report noted that billions of shillings of taxpayers’ money is sinking in stalled and abandoned projects.
“Contract agreements should be developed with clauses that have liquidated damages for non-completion of projects and should be drafted by county attorneys,” they said.
Payment of project work should only be done for certified work so that the county does not lose money for incomplete work, they recommended.
Where money is established to have been paid for incomplete work or work not done, the contractor and responsible officers should be held to account, with a view to the recovery of the funds lost.
Also dogging the counties is huge pending bills that continue to balloon by the day.
“The committee, further, noted that the county executives incurred further bills without prioritising the pending bills as the first charge in the subsequent financial year as required,” the report stated.
Lack of a risk management policy framework and failure to apply proper accounting practices are other issues blocking prudent use of public cash.
Edited by A.N