Mystery of billions of shillings flagged by Auditor General

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 NYAMBEGA GISESA

By NYAMBEGA GISESA
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In a request for payment, Wanjiru Theuri and Co Advocates is demanding for legal fees amounting to Sh5.1 billion from Nairobi City County allegedly for services delivered between 2013 and 2017.

The money the law firm is demanding in legal fees just from one county is more than the equitable share of revenue that the National Treasury has allocated in the financial year 2019/2020 to each of the counties of Lamu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Tharaka Nithi, Laikipia, Taita Taveta, Kirinyaga, Isiolo, Embu, Samburu, Vihiga, Nyamira, Nyandarua, West Pokot and Baringo.

This means that if Nairobi City County government pays Wanjiru Theuri and Co Advocates the amount it claims to be owed, the money will be enough to finance, most if not all, recurrent and development expenditure of about fourteen counties.

The alleged bill also amounts to a third of the Sh15.59 billion that Nairobi City County is set to receive as equitable share of revenue in the 2019/20 budget.

But Wanjiru Theuri and Co Advocates will not be getting this money, at least not for now, after the payment for the pending bill was flagged as suspicious and subsequently stopped.

A Special Report of the Auditor General on pending bills of the 47 county governments as at June 30, 2018 has listed the claim as an ineligible bill.

According to the Auditor General Edward Ouko, ineligible bills are bills that cannot be authenticated either due to lack of supporting documents, exaggerated, fraudulent, no service or goods were delivered, or are largely unsupported.

Documents of the special audit report obtained by the Sunday Nation indicate that suppliers and contractors made a demand of Sh11,355,964,991 from Nairobi City County government for payments for pending bills which have since been declared as ineligible bills.

Investigations by the Sunday Nation have revealed that a majority of the pending bills being demanded from Nairobi City County are payments allegedly for legal fees offered.

Auditors have declared pending bills totalling Sh9,885,150,143 allegedly for legal services delivered to the county as ineligible.

Other than the astronomical figures being demanded by Wanjiru Theuri and Co. Advocates, other law firms demanding huge amounts are Muriu Muigai and Co. Advocates (Sh103,178,845), Waweru Gatonye and Co. Advocates (Sh1,904,932,149), KTK Advocates (Sh1,133,280,980), Wanjao and Wanjau Advocates (Sh364,095,000), Moronge and Co. Advocates (Sh232,346,704) and Kariuki Muigua and Co. Advocates (Sh299,375,214).

The suspicious demand for payment of pending bills was first raised by Governor Mike Sonko in 2018 stating that a number of them were get-rich-quick schemes by cartels involving the county’s legal department and service providers.

In March 2018, Mr Sonko gazetted the committee on the finalisation of pending bills and audit that was headed by former Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Director PLO Lumumba to look into the issue of pending bills.

When the Sunday Nation perused through a report of Prof Lumumba’s committee and that of the Auditor General, it came across shocking revelation of a county where billions of shillings were paid without any supporting documents.

The cartels also allowed misstating of amounts so that contractors and suppliers were paid more than the genuine amounts of goods and services delivered and one in which contractors received money yet there was no certification of works done.

Shockingly, even as the audits on pending bills continued, corrupt county officials paid Sh1.1 billion to suppliers and contractors between June 30, 2018 and February 28, 2019, out of which Sh146.4 million was ineligible bills with little or no documentation to support delivery of goods and services.

According to the special audit report, some of the ineligible bills include demand for the payment of Sh509.5 million for the procurement of goods and services yet there is no evidence of delivery of goods and services and some of them are misstated claimable amounts.

The other ineligible bills are Sh220.5 million for the procurement of services and Sh740.7 million for construction contracts.

Seven counties have over Sh1b ineligible bills

According to the special audit reports, suppliers and contractors demanded to be paid Sh37,701,100,378 for pending bills which the Auditor General has flagged as irregular or fraudulent.

Other than Nairobi, counties which have ineligible bills amounting to over Sh1billion include Turkana (Sh3,843,895,306), Nakuru (Sh2,084,397,301), Nakuru (2,084,397,301), Mombasa (Sh1,801,985,966), Kwale (Sh1,691,897,514), Homa Bay (Sh1,622,798,590) and West Pokot (Sh1,242, 486,979).

Almost all the ineligible bills were incurred in the period between 2013 and 2017 when the governors were Simon Kachapin (West Pokot), Ahmed Abdullahi (Wajir), Nathif Jama (Garissa), Kinuthia Mbugua (Nakuru) and Evans Kidero (Nairobi).

Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok, Mombasa governor Hassan Joho, Homa Bay governor Cyprian Awiti and Kwale governor Salim Mvurya were re-elected and are now serving their second terms.

In Turkana county, the demand for payment for pending bills raised suspicion after a discovery that many contracts had been issued just before the 2017 general election.

Suppliers and contractors also filed complaints with the Controller of Budget over the non-payment of bills totalling to Sh5.7 billion owed to small scale and medium enterprises some of which had run bankrupt, auctioned or run into losses as a result of non-performance of contracts.

Whereas the businessmen complained of non-payment of their dues for works done, corrupt county officials working in cahoots with suppliers and contractors paid for air.

For instance, crooked Turkana County officials paid Sh30,960,864 to a firm named Lake System Ltd for the proposed drilling of boreholes in Turkana Central and Loima sub-counties, yet no work was done.

Auditors scrutinising request for payments in Wajir County discovered massive irregularities which included the payment of Sh2, 955,930 to a company which took only eleven days to complete the gravelling of the 30 kms long Griftu-Garse road.

When auditors visited Garissa County to audit pending bills totalling Sh2.6 billion, county officials told them that there were no documents as they had been washed away by floods after the Tana River burst its banks in June 2018.

In Mombasa, auditors discovered that 86.3 per cent of the pending bills were dues on statutory payroll deductions and withholding taxes with only 13.7 per cent due to supply of goods and services.

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