Controller of Budget flags ‘worsening’ pending bills in Samburu

Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

The Controller of Budget (CoB) has raised a red flag over pending bills in Samburu County amounting to Sh790.9 million yet to be cleared despite the availability of cash in the consolidated revenue fund (CRF).

Ms Margaret Nyakang’o said in a report that the accumulation of pending bills by the devolved unit may affect the overall economic growth of the pastoral region.

At the beginning of the 2022/23 financial year, Samburu County reported a stock of pending bills of Sh794.59 million.

According to Ms Nyakang'o, the amount comprised Sh221.67 million for recurrent expenditure and Sh575.92 million for development activities.

The Controller of Budget revealed that during the period under review, only pending bills amounting to Sh3.64 million were settled, which was wholly for recurrent programmes. Therefore, the outstanding pending bills as of September 30, 2022, were Sh790.9 million.

"The county has high level of pending bills which amounted to Sh790.95 million as of September 30, 2022. This is despite the availability of cash in the CRF which stood at Sh425.33 million at the end of the First Quarter of 2022/23 financial year," Ms Nyakang'o said in a report.

She urged the devolved unit to pay genuine bills in the remaining financial year to avert an economic crisis.

"The county leadership should take charge of the worsening pending bills situation to ensure genuine bills are paid without delay in the remaining period of the financial year," she said.

The never-ending bills have been a dicey issue for the Samburu County government since the advent of devolution in 2013 with multiple audit reports showing that the devolved unit is using much of its equitable share to settle debts.

But, Governor Jonathan Lelelit says his administration is auditing the pending bills to ascertain eligibility, in efforts to streamline the recurrent and development expenditure. The move has so far caused jitters among local contractors and suppliers as the county boss vowed to "pay only genuine debts."

There are allegations that the figures in the pending bills may have been exaggerated by the former administration, thus a need for a forensic audit to ascertain the legality. Governor Lelelit inherited over Sh700 million in pending bills from the former government and it has since been thorny for his young administration.

Mr Lelelit reiterated that his administration must ascertain the legality of the bill by conducting a forensic audit before making any payments.

"We are going to pay only genuine bills. An audit is underway to ascertain if they are genuine or not, we cannot pay them blindly," Governor Lelelit said last month.

In October this year, Mr Lelelit unveiled a task force to recommend ways of handling the massive pending bills in the county.

The committee is being chaired by Sarafino Lesangurikuri with Solomon Letirok, Wycliffe Machuka, Charles Leleruk and Penina Maloni as members.

Previous audit reports show that Samburu is spending almost three-quarters of its budget on salaries and other personal emoluments, with the wage bill exceeding 35 percent the recommended ceiling for personal emoluments in Regulation 25 (1) (b) of the Public Finance Management.