Whistleblower reveals how Siaya MCAs 'ate' Sh400m

Siaya governor James Orengo on Tuesday morning when he sent all the Siaya County CECs, and the county secretary on compulsory leave.

Photo credit: Kassim Adinasi | Nation Media Group.

Fresh details have emerged on how members of the Siaya County Assembly (MCAs) arm-twisted the executive to illegally divert Sh400 million to their campaigns for the August 9 elections.

A whistleblower claims MCAs used ‘fictitious’ sitting allowances and per diems through the assembly’s general oversight committee to gift themselves money in total disregard of the law.

In an exclusive interview with the Nation, the source, who was at the centre of the transactions, revealed that MCAs gobbled up more than Sh25 million in payments made in two batches, with the legislators said to have received about Sh566,000 each.

Other payments went to assembly staff said to have been conduits in the scheme.

The insider, who spoke in confidence, revealed that the general oversight committee, which involved all members, usually meets once or twice every month.

MCAs earn per diem for seven days for the meetings.

This is the avenue MCAs used to claim the funds for their campaigns as they sought to retain their seats.

“Towards the end of the 2021/2022 financial year, members wanted money for campaigns and held the governor to ransom,” said the whistleblower, who sought anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information.

MCAs then demanded per diem for 40 days, which would see them pocket millions of shillings.

“This was split into two and the first batch for the 20 days was directly wired from the assembly vote head into the MCAs’ accounts,” our source said.

It is the second batch of 20 days, totalling Sh11.7 million and paid by the executive, that sparked uproar when it was highlighted by the Nation last week.

Documents that the Nation has seen detailing payment transactions revealed that the Siaya County executive paid a total of Sh11,254,800 to four individuals believed to be assembly committee clerks.

Other individuals, the anonymous source said, were also paid.

The source said these payments violated regulations in the Public Finance and Management Act.

The rules bar multiple payments within a day before previous imprests are surrendered.

The whistleblower said the money pocketed by MCAs could have been for meetings that were never held.

The source claimed that the 40-day per diems were fictitious because supporting documents used to justify the payments or make requisitions from the executive were for meetings held months earlier.

“For instance, [in] April and May, there were sittings which had been paid to the general oversight committee and it is those being used to justify these other payments,” the source said.

Staff never received a penny

It emerged that some of the staff whose names appear as having withdrawn some of the suspicious payments never received a penny.

“Some of these staff whose names are on the list are now up in arms because they are being coerced to sign documents to sanitise what is otherwise misappropriation of funds,” said the source.

But the Siaya County Assembly has defended itself against accusations of colluding with the executive to engage in irregular spending.

At a press briefing in Kisumu on Monday morning, assembly Clerk Erick Ogenga said the report contained “unfortunate misinterpretations”.

Mr Ogenga said there is no law that prohibits an assembly officer from receiving payments from either the assembly or the executive.

“What is [relevant] is whether such funds were legally applied or not,” he told reporters.

He rejected claims that the large sums of money were withdrawn during the campaign period in July and August, saying the payments were made on July 4.

“The funds were requisitioned before the end of the 2021/2022 financial year and received around June 30, 2022 before the assembly adjourned sine die,” he said.

To develop critical legacy reports at the end of the second term, he said, assembly committees conducted performance reviews for all departments of the executive.

Those review meetings generated “allowances for members of the assembly and participating officers from the county executive as guided by relevant Salaries and Remuneration Commission circulars”.

He said the secretariat of the review meetings, which included clerks, had the delegated mandate of preparing and effecting payment schedules for all the participating officers.

“The monies meant for allowances of the review meetings that took place between February and June 2022 were therefore forwarded to certain members of the secretariat for onward payments to the participants,” Mr Ogenga said.

Earlier documents seen by the Nation revealed that the Siaya County executive paid a total of Sh11,254,800 to four individuals.

He said various sections of the 2012 County Government Act (39(2), 30(2)(j), 47, 59(d) and others) require the county executive to make periodic reports to the assembly for consideration.

Noting that the funds for the departmental review activities were properly budgeted for in the 2021/2022 fiscal year and requisitions approved, he invited the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to investigate the matter.

“Records of payments, receipts, related expenditures and resultant committee reports are available for scrutiny,” he said.

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