Senate watchdog team summons governors to answer audit queries
A powerful Senate watchdog committee has summoned all the 47 governors to explain how they spent public funds amidst revelations of massive public looting and resource wastage in counties.
The county chiefs have been invited by the Senate County Public Accounts and Investment Committee (CPAIC) to respond to questions raised by Auditor General Nancy Gathungu on their county's expenditure during the 2018/2019 financial year and the balance of audit reports of prior years.
In a schedule released by the Migori Senator Ochillo Ayacko-led team , county assemblies have also been called upon to also shed light on their expenditure for financial years 2014/2015, 2015/2016, 2016/2017, 2017/2018 and 2018/2019.
According to the notice of sittings of the committee scheduled for months of June, July, August, September, October and November, 2021 the counties of Isiolo, Meru, Embu, Kirinyaga, Mandera and Tana River will be among the first to take the hot seat.
They will be followed by Kericho, Nyandarua, Samburu, Nyeri, Laikipia, Turkana, Migori, Nakuru, Baringo, Nandi, Uasin Gishu, Kajiado, Kitui, Makueni, Lamu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Kisii and Nyamira.
Others are Garissa, Wajir, Kilifi,Kwale, Mombasa, Taita Taveta, Kiambu, Muranga, Marsabit, Machakos, Kisumu, Siaya, TransNzoia, Kakamega, Bomet, Narok, Bungoma, busia , Tharaka Nithi, Homabay and Vihiga.
“Pursuant to the provisions of Articles 96 (3) and 229 (7) and (8) of the Constitution and standing order 220 of the Senate Standing Orders, in exercise of its mandate of oversight over county public accounts and investments, the Senate County Public Accounts and Investments Committee hereby informs the Chief Executives of the entities listed in the Schedule below of the sittings of the Committee scheduled in the months of June, July, August, September, October and November, 2021 and invites them to appear before the Committee on the respective dates listed,” reads the notice published on Tuesday by Senate Clerk Jeremiah Nyegenye.
“All County Assemblies are required, at least fourteen (14) days prior to the scheduled date of appearance, to submit written responses, including supporting documents, to the specific issues raised in the Auditor General’s Reports on Financial Operations of the respective County Assembly for all Financial Years to the relevant Auditor-General, Regional Hub Office; and the Office of the Clerk of the Senate, by email, on [email protected].,” the notice further states.
It adds, “The Committee will not accept management responses that will be availed to the Committee and the Auditor-General’s office outside of the set timelines.
The nine panel team has also said that they will also not accept management responses that will be availed to the Committee and the Auditor-General’s office for the first time on the day of appearance before the Committee.Besides, each County Assembly is required to acknowledge (in writing) receipt of notification of appearance to the Clerk of the Senate/ Secretary, Parliamentary Service Commission (Email: [email protected]) at least seven (7) days prior to the scheduled date of appearance.
“The Committee further requires that on the scheduled day of appearance, each County Assembly avails to the Committee fifteen (15) hard copies of the management responses together with the supporting documents for each financial year under review,” the notice further advises.
The Committee will also interrogate the audit reports for the prior years which had not been interrogated and Meetings will be held in the Senate Chamber or Mini Chamber, First Floor, County Hall, Nairobi or such other venue as shall be communicated.
Article 125 of the constitution states that Parliament and any of its committees has the same powers as the High Court to enforce the attendance of witnesses, including issuing warrants of arrest.
Last year, the Council of Governors (CoG) accused committee then chaired by Sam Ongeri of revisiting what they term as outdated audit queries to extort governors
The county chiefs faulted the lawmakers for investigating financial queries dating back to 2015.
According to the CoG, such incidents raise questions and depict that the lawmakers have sinister motives which warrant investigations.
“It is unfortunate that some of the issues being raised by the Senate committee emanate from previous financial years dating back to 2015 which begs the question of where the Senate has been all along.” Cog said in a statement.
“We hereby categorically state that Governors will not bow down to the extortionist nature of this County Public Accounts and Investments Senate Committee and will only appear virtually until COVID-19 pandemic is over and funds have been disbursed to County Governments. We call upon the EACC and DCI to investigate the County Public Accounts and Investments Committee of the Senate on this matter of extortion,” it added.
The committee, through Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri and Narok Senator Ledama Olekina hit back, saying the county chiefs want to evade accountability.
“We derive our powers from Article (1)(2)(3). We are defending counties and also ensuring they account for public monies they are given,” Ongeri said.
Olekina warned that county chiefs who fail to appear before the panel will have only themselves to blame.
“While the Senate is fighting to have more resources to the counties it’s a shame for the chair of CoG to say that they won’t be appearing before CPAIC to account for funds they have been given," he said.