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County officials gobble Sh2.8 billion on local travel – report

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Auditor General Edward Ouko. The National Taxpayers Association has raised the alarm on spending by county officials. /FILE

County officials used Sh2.8 billion on local travel during the 2016-17 financial year, the National Taxpayers Association has said.

The report released on Tuesday showed officials gobbled up another Sh386.7 million on foreign travel for the same period.

The document states that counties have poor record keeping that provides loopholes for taxpayers’ funds to be misused.

“In most instances, the Auditor General was unable to review and form an opinion as he could not be given the documents,” NTA national coordinator Irene Otieno said.

“On local travel, 16 per cent of the expenditure did not have supporting documents. Same to foreign travels where counties failed to provide 32 per cent of documents to support.”

The team recommended that public office holders who direct or approve the use of public funds contrary to the law should be liable for any loss.

“The Treasury should stop the transfer of funds to any public entity that receives a disclaimer opinion from the Office of the Auditor General.”

Civil society groups, officials from the Auditor General’s office and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi were among attendees at the launch of the report.

Wandayi, who is also the Public Accounts Committee chairman, said the Senate should focus on pushing for resource allocation rather than oversight.

He said it was usurping the powers of parliamentary committees by assuming an oversight role on how money is spent. The MP said the role of the Senate is to oversee allocation of funds to the counties, not how it is spent.

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“We cannot have a Senate that is doing the same job that the county assemblies and parliamentary committees should be doing. The Constitution of 2010 is clear that the Senate must ensure there are enough resources for counties,” he said.

The report is an analysis of the Auditor General’s County Assemblies’ Budget Reports.

“The institutions that should play an oversight role to county executives are county assemblies, but they have failed,” Wandayi said.

“We must review the Constitution to ensure every organ understands and is able to deliver its mandate.”

Wandayi said that once the Parliamentary Oversight Committee and the Office of the Auditor General come up with reports, it was the duty of the Director of Criminal Investigations and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to prosecute suspects.

“The DCI and EACC must come in fast to investigate and prosecute. These government organs must stop the blame game and people must be jailed to make corruption an expensive affair,” he said.

“More money is stolen at the national government which is between 35 and 40 per cent of the total budget. However, the less than 10 per cent sent to counties is also misused.”

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