Governors to appear before Senate over Auditor General report

Governors are set to appear before a Senate committee to answer queries on a report by Auditor-General Edward Ouko on spending in the counties.

The County Assembly Speakers and Clerks are also scheduled to appear before the Senate County Public Accounts and Investment Committee chaired by Dr Boni Khalwale.

Dr Khalwale said County Executive Committee (CEC) members and other senior officials are free to accompany their bosses to shed light on transactions that require their personal responses.

Unlike previous financial statements, Mr Ouko’s audit report that captures financial transactions between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014, has elicited wide criticism.

In July, Mr Ouko released reports exposing ruthless expenditure of devolved resources in the county governments.

Both national and county leaders have accused the Auditor-General of doing a shoddy job, with some claiming he is working for the opposition to portray the government in bad light.

The Auditor-General has also been accused of failing to consider information on spending submitted by the counties to his office when compiling the final report.

Mr Ouko has maintained that he is only doing his work in accordance with the Constitution, which does not allow him to engage in politics.

FIGHT CORRUPTION

“I have not accused anyone of corruption. My office only flags out areas where we were not supplied with the requisite documents to support expenditure of public funds,” Mr Ouko said.

He said Parliament has the constitutional mandate to summon those adversely mentioned in the report to explain why the documents were either not provided or submitted after the exercise had been completed.

Dr Khalwale said the counties have no reason to shy away from public scrutiny because they have a duty to ensure taxpayers’ funds are properly utilised on prioritised projects.

“We have no room for witch hunt. This noble exercise is all about whether the figures on paper corroborate with the genuine receipts provided,” Dr Khalwale told the Nation on Tuesday by phone.

He said where the situation demands, they would visit some counties to verify whether mentioned projects were undertaken and if there was value for money spent.

Kajiado Senator Mr Peter Mositet called for collective commitment by county leaders and the residents to fight corruption.

“Development has gone to remote parts of this country. The gains are far from over but Kenyans must put aside the culture of defending those accused of corruption and let the law take its course,” said Mr Mositet.

DAMAGE

The Auditor-General’s report has indicated that many counties were still grappling with breach of procurement guidelines and declaration of low revenues generated at the county level.

“Many Counties are still collecting far less revenue than what the defunct local authorities were collecting and this is a reason enough to leave us worried,” Mandera Senator Billow Kerrow noted.

He said it is improper for governors to take advantage of revenue shared between the national and county governments to misappropriate funds collected within their counties.

Dr Khalwale said the committee would fast track the sittings to avoid a pile up of investigations into county spending.

“Going forward, the approach should be to ensure issues arising from a particular financial year are not dealt with years later, when the damage is massive to be effectively deal with,” he said.

He claimed that the sudden change of lifestyles for most of the county officials is a clear testimony that public funds are “ending up in people’s pockets”.