Outsourcing available services is cheating

There is no respite in the financial woes bedevilling the 47 counties, with pending bills running into hundreds of billions of shillings. Some of these arise from wasteful expenditure, including hefty sums spent on non-essential local and foreign travels.

A sizeable chunk of the pending bills could have been avoided with some prudent management. Of course, corruption and mismanagement are the avenues through which public resources are being squandered in the counties.

These challenges are overshadowing the progress recorded in the slightly over 10 years of devolution. Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu has not tired of exposing the corruption and mismanagement that are rife in the counties.

Her financial report for the year ended June 30, 2022 revealed that the suspect outsourcing of legal services has left the devolved units reeling under debts totalling Sh50 billion.

Counties have fully fledged legal departments and yet the cases are being outsourced. It is a scam to enrich corrupt officials and yet it now threatens the very existence of some counties.

A Senate watchdog committee has also raised its concern over questionable payments and pending bills in the counties.

The Senate County Public Accounts Committee warned that some counties risk becoming insolvent should the law firms push for the immediate payment of the debts.

The counties have, instead of using their own attorney offices or alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, been opting for high-profile lawyers, whose charges are exorbitant. These are retained even for minor cases that could be handled internally.

Nairobi is, for instance, grappling with Sh21 billion in outstanding legal fees after hiring 50 firms to represent it. Many others have similar challenges. It is only logical that county governments do not outsource services for which they have internal capacity. It is just a racket to plunder public resources that must be stopped.