Heist: Puzzle of Sh400 million withdrawn in Siaya days to elections


Leaders don’t have a licence to ‘eat’ public resources.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Senior Siaya County officials are under scrutiny over unexplained and suspicious withdrawals amounting to about Sh400 million in the dying days of the Rasanga regime.

The transactions happened within 12 days of the August elections.

In total disregard of a moratorium stopping payments of allowances and pending bills, some employees went ahead and paid themselves hefty cash during the transition period.

The executive also channelled around Sh11.2 million to some Siaya County Assembly clerks.

This comes as the Siaya County government remains on the radar of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) over alleged misappropriation of Sh600 million by officials in the previous administration.

A Nation examination of the payment details revealed that the cash was transferred between July 1 and July 13, few weeks before the elections, puzzling many.

A closer look at the documents also revealed that the Siaya County executive paid a total of Sh11,254,800 to four individuals – Mr Silvester Douglas Ogolla, Mr Kevin Ochieng Masawa, Mr Anthony Odiwuor Omollo and Mr Muga Erick Omollo – believed to be clerks of various committees in the assembly.

All these payments were made on July 4, with three of the clerks receiving up to five payments in one day, ranging between Sh650,000 and Sh716,000.

Following these revelations, lobby groups are now calling on the executive to come out clean on the allegations of possible misappropriation of funds.

“Such excesses are what is crippling our counties. We want the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to probe and unearth why such huge sums of money were transferred during that period and spent on what exactly,” said Mr Chris Owala, director of the Community Initiative Action Group.

He questioned why the executive was paying staff working in the assembly and why most of the cash was under the imprest account.

“The assembly is supposed to provide oversight on the executive and if they are being paid, then how will they discharge their mandate?” posed Mr Owalla.

Tied to this is a suspicious payment by staff in the Finance department.

Between August 1 and September 6, staff in the Finance department paid themselves hefty amounts of money despite a moratorium advising against paying allowances.

This was during the transition period from former governor Cornel Rasanga’s administration to that of his successor, Mr James Orengo.

Orengo Moratorium

The Finance staff paid themselves imprests after Governor Orengo issued a moratorium stopping payment of allowances.

Mr Orengo also stopped procurement and payments of pending bills until a proper audit was completed to ascertain the legitimacy of some of the debt.

“It is sad that the Finance staff went against the order and paid themselves huge sums of cash in imprests,” said Mr Owala.

When the Nation reached out to Finance and Economic Planning executive Cleophas Ombogo, he said he only oversees operations in his department and referred us to his chief officer.

“Payments are done by my chief officer and he is the only one who could be privy to all this information you are enquiring [about]. It is not abnormal for such payments to be made, but [only he] can explain why and how they were made,” Mr Ombogo said.

Finance Chief Officer Hezbone Kadullo Mariwa confirmed that the payments were made, but clarified that it was through cash the assembly had lent to the executive from their vote head.

“It is the executive which usually facilitates the assumption of office. That is why the so-called committee clerks paid were carrying out oversight to the executive during the transition period awaiting the new administration. We diligently followed the right procedure in carrying out payments,” Mr Mariwa said.

One worker, Ms Monica Aluoch Onyango, said to be an administrator in the Finance department, for instance, received five payments – Sh225,000 for travel costs, Sh93,00 in tuition fees allowance, Sh200,000 in accommodation allowance and another Sh250,000 for tuition fees. All these were paid on August 31.

On September 6, she also received Sh120,000 for advertising, awareness and publicity campaigns. Another staffer, Mr Fredrick Okello Odiwuor, also received Sh200,000 for travel costs, Sh425,000 as daily subsistence allowance and Sh125,000 as bank service commission charge.

One support worker, Mr Paul Odhiambo Oyier, was also paid Sh748,000 for contracted technical services.

Mr Owala asked Governor Orengo to reorganise the Finance department, calling it ‘rotten’.

“For order and sanity to come back, the new administration must be firm and keep an eye on how imprest and IFMIS systems are being managed. There is also an urgent need for a lifestyle audit of the county staff,” said Mr Owala.

The revelation came about a week after Governor Orengo formed a task force to carry out a forensic audit of the financial operations of the Siaya government.

This move has already created anxiety among county officials.
Unlike previously, when former senior county government officials buzzed around the governor during functions, the executives have been skipping functions attended by Mr Orengo.

Former Auditor-General Edward Ouko is the chairman of the task force and Rowena Stella Ndeda the secretary.

Other members are political analyst Prof Adams Oloo, Dr Grace Ongile, Ms Bella Akinyi, Mr Jared Buoga and former CEO of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital Dr Peter Joseph Okoth. The Institute of Economic Affairs will provide technical expertise and support.

The mandate of the audit includes evaluation, assessment and determination of the county’s workforce and revenue administration with an emphasis on the last two financial years.

The team will review existing financial and other internal control systems, processes and procedures for budget management and IFMIS operations.

It will also audit own-source revenue collection and utilisation, the integrity and efficiency of county government activities and supply chains, imprest accounts, retention accounts, pending bills, project management committee funds and payroll.

The team started its work on September 22 and is supposed to conclude it within 60 days. It will submit its interim report within 30 days.