By: JOHN NGIRACHU
Pressure on Devolution and Planning Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru to leave office could increase after MPs in the Public Accounts Committee discovered a litany of inflated expenses in a department under her watch.
Among these was the supply and installation of a touch screen in her office at a cost of Sh1.798 million and computers, a printer, telephone headsets and a water dispenser at a combined cost of Sh1.4 million.
Among the more outrageous ones was a case where, in June 2014, the Huduma Kenya Secretariat paid Sh174,000 for 20 blue, fine-tipped ball point pens, meaning each was bought at Sh8,700.
The register does not indicate whether this was 20 cartons or 20 pens of the variety usually known as “biros”.
Most of the payments were indicated to have been made in June 2014, which raised eyebrows at the committee sitting because traditionally, ministries rush to spend money remaining in their budgets before the end of the financial year on June 30.
The expenses were discovered as the committee scrutinised the ministry’s thick file of replies to the queries raised in the Auditor-General’s report on the government’s accounts for the 2013/2014 financial year.
The Auditor-General had queried the ministry’s failure to spend the Sh11 billion it had budgeted for in the 2013/2014 financial year. It had spent Sh8 billion but had not provided payment vouchers and a register of assets.
UNUSUALLY HIGH COSTS
As MPs pored through the asset register for the Directorate of Public Service Management, where Sh1.2 billion was spent, committee chairman Nicolas Gumbo and Balambala MP Abdikadir Omar Aden pointed out the unusually high costs.
Among these were: a photocopier at Sh1.4 million; 45 external hard disks at Sh11,102 each; a laptop bought for Sh206,000; 18 tailor-made clear male and female condom dispensers at Sh25,000 each; CorelDraw software for Sh3.4 million; a computer and personal laptop for Sh1.1 million; and carpets at Sh3.8 million.
There was also a photocopier worth Sh1.4 million, anti-virus software that can be bought at Sh75,000 in the open market but supplied to the ministry at Sh973,780 and Adobe InDesign CS6 software at Sh1.9 million while it can be bought at Sh160,000 in the open market.
The directorate also bought a Yamaha piano for office use at Sh235,500.
In one case, the ministry bought one shredder for Sh64,750 and on the same day bought three others for Sh930,000, meaning it paid more than four times the cost of one for the second lot.
In November 2013, the Huduma Kenya Secretariat paid Sh242,500 for 100 4GB flash disks, meaning it paid Sh2,425 for a flash disk that ordinarily costs Sh500 in the open market.
PAC members were also concerned that some of the expenses in the asset registers not only appeared suspect but should not even be categorised as assets.
Among these were the construction of various markets across the country, rehabilitation of bus parks, repair of roads, tuition for the performance contracting team for training in Arusha, Tanzania, the printing of brochures and pamphlets, translation services, consultancy services and the construction of storm-water drainage in Narok Town.
There was also the partitioning of offices at Barclays Plaza at Sh16 million and costs incurred in the construction of Huduma Centres across the country.
ECONOMIC STIMULUS PROGRAMME
The markets were projects under the Economic Stimulus Programme while some would also appear to be projects that the county governments had taken over and for which governors claim credit.
Mr Kanini Kega (Kieni, TNA) and Dr Eseli Simiyu (Tongaren, Ford-Kenya) pointed out projects in their counties that were on the list — a purportedly completed market in Mweiga at Sh26.9 million and the completion of a market in Bungoma for which Sh2.3 million was the final payment.
“I know a market in Bungoma was done but the governor has been taking credit for it,” said Dr Simiyu.
“It is unfortunate that all this has been happening in this country and the information we are getting is from the Devolution ministry. The Mweiga market they say is not even complete. It is shocking and I now know who to ask,” he added.
Mr Gumbo said these were simply the outliers in the documents presented to the committee and the Auditor-General’s representatives at the meeting.
The revelations caught Planning Principal Secretary Peter Mangiti off guard because he was the ministry’s accounting officer for the 2013/2014 financial year and appeared to have simply presented what his juniors had prepared.
PUBLIC MONEY AS ‘WASTE PAPER’
The Devolution and Planning ministry is composed of seven former ministries in the Kibaki administration collapsed into two State Departments.
Mr Mangiti had initially said the difference between his department and the Auditor-General had been because of the format in which the documents were presented but this unravelled as the scrutiny proceeded.
“I’m not fully armed with the documentation to explain this,” he initially said.
But Mr Gumbo pointed out that the file he was referring to was covered by a letter he wrote to the Clerk of the National Assembly on October 30, which implied that he knew what was in it.
But as the heat rose, the PS realised the extent of the problem and said: “I want to sincerely submit that we did not bring you the correct information. I want to apologise. My people appear to have messed up completely.”
Mr Gumbo summed up the feelings of the MPs on the watchdog committee: “The attitudes towards public funds is to me like they are handling waste paper.”
The revelations provide more evidence about the manner in which public funds are wasted in procurement processes.
They would place more pressure on Ms Waiguru, who is the subject of an impeachment motion sponsored by Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter, when the National Assembly resumes sittings next Tuesday.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION