Ex-Embu Governor Martin Wambora faces probe over Sh1.6bn ‘questionable’ bills

Governor Cecily Mbarire

Governor Cecily Mbarire addresses members of the Senate County Public Accounts Committee at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi on November 23. 

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

A Senate watchdog committee has called for investigations targeting former governor Martin Wambora’s administration over questionable pending bills worth Sh1.6 billion incurred during his tenure.

Mr Wambora is also on the spot over failure by his administration to remit statutory deductions amounting to over Sh532 million.

The revelations emerged during a committee hearing where it was disclosed that the county government declared Sh2.3 billion in pending bills only for an audit to find eligible pending bills worth only Sh705 million.

Governor Cecily Mbarire told the County Public Accounts Committee that is chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang’ on Thursday last week that she inherited pending bills amounting to Sh2.359 billion. She said she established a task force to audit the debts and found that only Sh705.2 million were eligible.

The committee was considering the auditor-general’s report for the financial year ended June 30, 2020.

Ms Mbarire told the senators that her task force found out that some of the projects captured in the pending bills had neither contractual timelines nor local purchase orders.

‘Quite exaggerated’

“The pending bills were quite exaggerated with many lacking in documentation,”she claimed, adding that the “eligible pending bills were way less than what was captured in the handover report.”

The first term governor revealed that her administration paid Sh529 million of the bills, including money owed to the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority and statutory deductions, bringing the bills down to Sh1.659 billion. Of the remaining debt, Sh705.2 million, representing 42.49 per cent, were eligible for settlement while the ineligible bills were Sh954.38 million.

She explained the ineligible bills included Sh112 million worth of incomplete works on site, Sh422 million worth of projects not supported by any relevant documents and missing procurement files and projects costing Sh419 million that were either abandoned, not started or whose partial invoices raised without work having been done.

“It looks like the aim was to defraud the people of Embu through pending bills,” said Mr Kajwang’ while reacting to the revelations.

Ms Mbarire urged the committee to push for a policy to have the office of the auditor-general work with county governments in determining the eligibility of pending bills.

She told the committee that her administration inherited Sh532.6 million in unpaid staff deductions but has managed to pay Sh372 million in the current fiscal year, leaving a balance of Sh160.36 million.

The previous administration was also flagged for paying Sh87.7 million in salaries and wages through a manual payroll instead of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Database System as prescribed by the National Treasury.

Recruiting staff

Is also paid Sh59 million in salaries without approved supplementary estimates.

Further, the county government was fingered for recruiting staff who did not possess the qualifications prescribed in advertisements put out by the County Public Service Board and who earned Sh7.5 million illegally.

“An audit we carried out revealed that there were some people who were being overpaid and others paid twice or salaries for five employees being paid into the same account. We have done a lot of cleaning up of our payroll in the past few months,” said Mr Mbarire.

Mr Wambora’s regime was also flagged for paying Sh2.7 million to county assembly staff and ward reps to finalise a supplementary budget.

“That kind of activity should be funded by the assembly and not the executive. We will look at this as a bribe and we will make our recommendations on the matter,” said Mr Kajwang’.