Governor Irungu Kang’ata has called for investigations into the possible theft of billions of shillings in devolved funds after a verification exercise indicated that, out of Sh2.7 billion supposedly owed to suppliers by his Murang’a County government, only bills worth Sh640 million were genuine.
According to the governor, besides common forms of pilferage, such as inflation of bills and suspicions that the county harbours ghost workers, there are more egregious criminal acts, including invoicing the devolved unit for projects financed by the National Government Constituency Development Fund and the Kenya Rural Roads Authority.
If, indeed, these claims are true, there is a possibility that a significant part of the billions that are funnelled to the counties every year ends up in the pockets of undeserving people.
This would be quite unfair to genuine suppliers, who must wait for inordinate periods for debts to be verified so as to be paid. Some have actually been auctioned for failure to meet their financial obligations as a result of delayed payments.
There is, therefore, an urgent need for an independent national audit of pending bills to ascertain their genuineness. That would not only smoke out cheats and deter corruption but also significantly reduce the debt burden the devolved units are saddled with.
And that would be especially welcome now when the National Treasury owes the devolved units billions of shillings. This has led to salary delays and a cash crunch, hence a Council of Governors’ 14-day ultimatum to the national government to release the funds or face a shutdown.
An independent audit would also rule out subjectivity as past governors may easily claim that their successors are bent on disowning the pending bills for political reasons.
The Office of the Auditor-General should get to the bottom of the matter to have genuine creditors paid and any wrongdoers punished.