EACC to probe possible loss of billions in Wajir

Wajir Governor Ahmed Abdullahi

Wajir Governor Ahmed Abdullahi before the Senate County Public Accounts Committee at KICC, Nairobi on Thursday, May 18, 2023.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

A Senate watchdog committee has directed the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to commence investigations into financial malpractices in Wajir County running into billions of shillings.

Governor Ahmed Abdullahi’s administration is on the spot over a possible loss of Sh1.5 billion in unremitted statutory deductions from county staff. This is part of the county’s pending bills amounting to over Sh7 billion, with Sh4.5 billion having been accumulated in two months.

The damming revelations and subsequent directive were made during the Senate County Public Accounts committee sitting considering the county’s audit report for the financial year ended June 2020.

Mr Abdullahi told the committee that during the transition period, staff could have created fictitious bills that increased the pending bills to Sh5.5 billion from Sh1 billion. Further, he said the debt grew by some 1.9 billion after the county government made statutory deductions and failed to remit the same.

He said that an audit report as at June 2022 revealed that the county had about Sh1 billion in pending bills, but by the time he received the Assumption of the Officer of Governor’s report in August same year, the pending bills had ballooned to Sh5.5 billion.

“Since then, more contractors have been coming with documents,” said the governor.

Following the revelations, the senators demanded a forensic audit and investigations by the EACC, leading to prosecution of county officers found culpable and the monies recovered.

Committee chairperson Moses Kajwang’ (Homa Bay) also called on Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu to carry out a proper audit of all the pending bills with statutory liabilities treated as the first charge.

He wondered how a county like Wajir, which is small in terms of budget, would be second in the list of pending bills after Nairobi.

“We must ask the Auditor-General to conduct a proper audit and agree that the EACC must come in. We want you to be very bold in dealing with this issue,” said Mr Kajwang’. “We must order that the first charge should be the Sh1.5 billion statutory deductions that were not remitted.”

The committee’s vice chairperson and Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said the issue of the Sh1.5 billion is outright public theft and that those found culpable should be jailed.

Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah supported calls for a forensic audit leading to those found culpable being held to account. He said the plundering of public funds in the county is unacceptable.

“How come a county like Wajir has those kinds of pending bills that rival Nairobi? This is not acceptable. Within no time, people must be prosecuted,” he said.

Mr Abdullahi told the committee that his administration has initiated the process of auditing the bills. He said that the county had been taken to court by the employee’s union for non-remittance of the statutory deductions.

“We have been taken to court by the unions for non-payment of the statutory liabilities including pensions, gratuity, Sacco deductions and standing orders for employees’ loans,” he said.

Wajir County has had four governors since 2013, with Mr Abdullahi being the first one. He was then replaced by Mr Mohamed Abdi, who was impeached and succeeded by Mr Ali Muktar.