County Assemblies take graft to ridiculous heights

County Assemblies have become cash cows with unscrupulous staff and MCAs siphoning public funds through dubious payments to their own companies and unnecessary trips.

Multiple sources at the counties, who we talked to, are calling on investigative agencies to open a probe on all payments done between April and June this year.

An Auditor General’s report has also revealed widespread misuse of public funds through weak financial controls and failure to properly account for spent funds in county assemblies.

During the period in question, counties were forced to rush payments, and in some cases, made double payments to companies associated with staff members, MCAs or companies owned by their cronies.

Sources indicate that MCAs normally intimidate Speakers and Clerks with impeachment threats if they tend not to comply.

In one Assembly in Mount Kenya region, MCAs demanded a trip to lucrative destinations of Estonia, Tajikistan and Kazakistan. “I had no option but to organise a trip to Estonia where six MCAs travelled for site seeing,” said the Clerk.

A payroll audit at the County Assembly of Homa Bay has revealed that the legislative house lost up to Sh4.5 million in hands of ghost workers and more millions in other controversial services. 

Majority Leader Walter Muok said an audit has revealed that the House “employed” 19 workers who have been earning since August but have rendered no service to the county. The ghost workers were contracted and are being paid as ward employees, he said.

He said this was revealed after the County Assembly undertook changes in the board membership.

“The new board members identified a number of loopholes that some people used to irregularly get cash from the Assembly,” he said.

Other revelations of funds loss at the Assembly include spending of Sh300,000 every month to prepare tea for workers.

“None of the workers at the Assembly drink tea or eat from work. The funds for this service were pocketed by someone,” he said.

The Assembly also spends Sh35,000 monthly for cutting grass and maintaining vegetation within its compound. However, the grounds are fully tiled.

The majority leader said they are still going on with the audit in other departments to ensure there is no more embezzlement of funds.

At the same time, Kilifi North MP Owen Baya has opposed plans by the County Assembly to construct Sh1 billion Assembly block.

“We have more pressing needs and cannot continue to use the little resources we have to provide luxurious lifestyle to our MCAs while people suffer in poverty and food insecurity,” he said.

Baya who opposed construction of the County Assembly office block during his tenure as the County Secretary, called on Governor Amason Kingi to reign in Speaker Silas Kahindi for “wasting” public funds.

In Kiambu, computer accessories valued at Sh50 million were reportedly paid for but not delivered.

Further, the County Assembly bought pens worth Sh100,000 that were not requested for.

Director of Criminal Investigation George Kinoti has dispatched a team of detectives to the Nyamira County Assembly to investigate alleged irregularities in the procurement of the Assembly office block, misappropriation of funds and abuse of office.

A source said a contingent of eight sleuths arrived in the Assembly last week.

The offices they have raided include that of the Speaker Moffat Teya, Acting Clerk Duke Onyari, Finance Director Leonard Nyamasege and procurement office headed by Joyce Onyiego.

The detectives may narrow down their investigations to a trip by MCAs in China for a training on usage of Hansard equipment.

Duplication of duties

“The training was purely for the Hansard staff. All costs were to be met by the contractor supplying and installing Hansard suites, but MCAs and Speaker took advantage of it and drew imprests and other expenses from the Assembly irregularly,” a source said.

In Baringo County Assembly, a cafeteria was constructed at a cost of Sh17 million.

In Busia, the County Assembly paid Sh10.7 million to five firms to sensitise the public on five similar Bills.

In Elgeyo Marakwet, the County Assembly reportedly spent Sh6.8 million to purchase equipment and furniture for a cafeteria even when the building was still under construction.

And in Embu, a report showed that the Embu County Assembly paid Sh120,000 to a local hotel for an Education committee conference in 2015 while the same team was in Nairobi at Utalii Hotel during the same period.

The audit revealed Lamu County Assembly used Sh22 million to fly MCAs and Assembly staff for a training abroad, which could have been held locally.

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