Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi maintains counties will continue to contribute to support the operations of the Council of Governors for a slong as the national government was not funding the body.
He made the remarks after appearing before the Senate Public Accounts committee where he defended his administration’s financial status following the damning Auditor General’s report which had suggested Meru County had failed to account for up to KSh7 billion.
The report revealed that Meru County had received KSh16B in the 2017/18 financial year but the governor was categorical that they had only received KSh7B and the figures captured by the IFMIS system were “fictitious”.
While, the former senator and his team that included Deputy Governor Titus Ntuchiu – also in charge of the finance department, seemed to have impressed the Moses Kajwang-led committee except on the matter of KSh8 million which the county expended to the CoG.
The Auditor General’s report had flagged the money, saying it was spent against the law, adding that there were no supporting documents to account for KSh2.8M of the money sent to CoG.
But the governor explained that they had supplied the payment vouchers and that there was no queries except for the legal issue premised on the provisions of the Inter-Governmental Relations Act.
PAC chair Kajwang said the senate “holds that payments to CoG must be surcharged on the individuals” but Kiraitu differed, saying he was “ready to go to court all the way to Supreme Court if they continue taking that stand” to defend the position of CoG.
“The Council of Governors is an important organ for devolution in this country and we cannot allow it to collapse,” Kiraitu told Kurunzi.
“The budgets have a line (known as) contributions to other government agencies so we use that line to fund the council of governors and the budgets are approved by the county assembly and the controller of budget.
“We can defend ourselves in case somebody says it is illegal but don’t they try it in court and we shall meet there.”
Kiraitu has further warned that they would not pay at least KSh700 million for pending bills to contractors, who may have not completed their projects or had exaggerated the value of the work.
“From our own analysis if the project was not done or we feel it was exaggerated then we don’t pay. But if you feel we have treated you unfairly then go to court and if the court says we pay you then we will pay.”
Earlier, Ntuchiu, had told the committee that the county had outstanding bills amounting to KSh2.7B but they had conducted an audit that established that only KSh2B was genuine.
“The governor put in place a committee which vetted all the projects and we found that some of them were exaggerated and overpriced totaling to KSh700 million,” Ntuchiu explained.
“An example is where the previous regime had a bill of KSh54 million for two boreholes yet the governor here has built one borehole for KSh5M.
“According to the records, KSh23M had been paid and the balance was still pending so we are supposed to pay the balance of the KSH54M but we have made a decision that we will not pay because there is clearly no value for money in such a case and there are several others.”
Ntuchiu, further revealed that the county administration feared that they are about to fail to spend an estimated KSh2B due to late disbursement from treasury with the 2018/20 financial year just few days away from its end.
“The last monies we received from treasury was for March, meaning we still have April, May and June pending and it will be a challenge to absorb that budget in the few remaining days.
“It was the same thing in 2017/18 and we are appealing to the senate to help us with this because the delay by treasury is really affecting budget absorption.
“The controller of budget only approves what is available so we are unable to spend money that has not been released by treasury.”
Other issues that emerged during the hearing before the committee include the county running two payrolls – a manual one and the IPPD system that is controlled by the national government, 37% of the budget expenditure on salaries compensation and retention or sacking of casual workers by the county.
The KSh2.5 earthworms project dubbed Eco-Tosha was also on the spotlight but the governor’s team explained the materials had been delivered by JKUAT, calling for time before questions on its success can be responded to.
“We embarked on this project because we are keen on introducing organic farming in Meru but it is too soon to start asking about success stories,” explained Governor Kiraitu to the satisfaction of the committee.