County employees abusing imprest system, EACC says

Moses Kajwang'

County Public Accounts Committee Chair Senator Moses Otieno Kajwang’ during a session on February 8. 

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

The anti-graft agency has raised concerns over abuse of imprests by county government officials who have turned the payment system into an avenue for “soft loans”.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) said imprest claims have become the new way of getting “quick” money for corrupt officials in the devolved units.

Appearing before the Senate County Public Accounts Committee, EACC’s Eva Wachuka said the unscrupulous county officials are using the imprest system to plunder public resources.

The revelations are part of an ongoing Senate consideration of county governments’ audit reports by the Auditor-General for the financial year ending June 2020.

Ms Wachuka said the county government officials go as far as “cooking” records to support claims.

“It has become the soft loan for counties where they are issued money and then they work backwards to surrender the documents. That is cooking records,” she said. “This is pure abuse of imprests.”

An imprest is a sum of money advanced to a person for a particular purpose as a remedy to procurement bottlenecks for payment of unplanned expenditures of up to Sh2 million.

Of the eight county reports considered by the Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang’-led committee, abuse of the imprest system was common in half of them.

The Nyeri County executive was on the spot over unreconciled or unexplained imprest amounting to Sh19.9 million during the year under review, with outstanding imprests being Sh5.6 million.

“The statement of assets and liabilities reflects a balance of Sh5,671,031 under accounts receivables-outstanding imprests as at 30 June, 2020. However, the resultant difference of Sh19,970,562 had not been reconciled or explained,” read part of the report by Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu.

Vihiga County executive was fingered for irregular issuance and management of imprests including unsupported imprests of Sh15 million. The report revealed that examination of the schedule provided by the county executive in support of the imprests revealed that three officers were issued with additional imprest totalling Sh5.9 million before they surrendered initial imprest contrary to regulations.

“Further, an analysis of the recurrent cash book and subsequent posting to IPPD (Integrated Payroll and Personnel Database) payroll by-product revealed that the imprest recovery from the three officers amounting to Sh8,979,100 had been stopped before full recovery. However, the supporting surrender vouchers were also not provided for audit,” states the report.

West Pokot County Assembly was faulted by Ms Gathungu for issuing imprests of Sh1.5 million to its officials who failed to surrender documents more than a year after issuance. Further, the management did not provide an imprest register to confirm movement of monies.

“Consequently, the accuracy, validity and recoverability of outstanding imprest balance of Sh1,557,700 reflected in the statement of financial assets and liabilities as at 30 June, 2019 could not be confirmed.”

A report by a task force formed by Siaya Governor James Orengo to look into financial records of the county showed that of the Sh718 million paid to various employees for recurrent expenditure purportedly for training activities, at least Sh298 million was paid from the imprest account.

The task force chaired by former Auditor-General Edward Ouko, revealed rampant abuse of the imprest system and lack of standardisation of the standing imprest of office operations and instances where use of imprest could not be determined.