Taita MCA's urged to execute oversight role effectively

The County Assembly gate in Wundanyi sub-county, Taita Taveta County. The MCAs have been accused of failing to execute their oversight role over the executive.

Photo credit: Lucy Mkanyika I Nation Media Group

Taita Taveta County Assembly representatives have been blamed for failing to execute their oversight mandate effectively thereby leading to the loss of public funds.

The Taita Taveta Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) accused the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) of failing to interrogate and take action on findings contained in previous reports released by the Auditor-General. 

Speaking in Voi, the chairperson of the rights group, Ezra Mdamu said the assembly has failed to keep the county executive in check.

"The county assembly should ensure that public funds are not misappropriated by interrogating the Auditor-General reports objectively. Unfortunately, our MCAs have failed on that mandate," he said. 

He said the County's Department of Water and the tendering system should be investigated over claims of corruption. 

He stated that the assembly itself had raised issues on the implementation of part of the Sh2.5 billion World Bank-funded water grant under the Department of Water.

"We have not seen what the assembly has done to take action against the claims. We also have information that some county officials are restocking their shops using government funds and the assembly has done nothing to pursue the claims," he said.

He said the CSOs have on several occasions petitioned the county assembly but claimed that no action has been taken.

Mr Mdamu said there was a need for the assembly to improve their oversight roles for residents to get better service delivery. 

"We are not saying that the assembly should not work with the executive, what we are asking is that they should interrogate cases of corruption when the executive is mentioned," he said.

Mr Mdamu called on the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI), the Ombudsman and the Senate to investigate county officials accused of looting public funds.

He said the county officials should account for their wealth to prevent the loss of public funds.

Last month, the Senate approved the Lifestyle Audit Bill, 2021, which seeks to compel government officials to undergo mandatory lifestyle audits. 

The Bill that was sponsored by Deputy Majority Whip Senator Farhiya Ali, is now at the National Assembly before it’s presented to President Uhuru Kenyatta for assent.

The proposed law will make it mandatory for public and state officers to undergo lifestyle audits to boost the war against corruption. 

A section of Taita Taveta residents is now calling on the National Assembly to fast track the passage of the Bill for government officers to account for their sources of wealth before the next election. 

The residents who spoke to Nation.Africa claimed there was rampant looting of public funds as politicians gather resources to fund their campaigns for their 2022 bids.

Ms Isabella Kidede, the team leader for the county budget champions, claimed that some government officers have been diverting public funds through irregular payments, unauthorized expenditures, and other fraud-related crimes.

"The Bill should be passed immediately because currently, some county and national government officials are on a looting spree to get funds for their election campaigns. Something needs to be done immediately," she said.

She said that the law will unearth those who use public resources to enrich themselves and their families.

"Some government employees turned into millionaires shortly after getting into office. We want to know how they got all the wealth they are flaunting," she said.

Ms Kidede said the rampant corruption has denied residents crucial services including access to clean water, affordable healthcare, education and other crucial benefits. 

Another resident, Doreen Mwakio challenged Governor Granton Samboja to remove officials who have stolen government funds.

"We are calling on the governor to remove all those who have been mentioned in financial scandals that have rocked the county. We are aware that there are officers who own unexplained assets yet their income doesn't match their wealth," she said.

She said the governor should be at the forefront in fighting corruption by sacking all the corrupt county officials accused of looting public monies.

"The Bill is timely because government officers have been getting away with breaking the law. Since the start of devolution in 2013, We have not seen any government official in this county who has been prosecuted yet we keep seeing our funds being looted left, right and centre," she said.

"We are unable to achieve the planned projects because of the runaway corruption involving both the national and county government officers. This law will help in the prosecution of those found culpable," she added.

In 2018, President Kenyatta had called for lifestyle audits of all senior procurement and finance officials in government. 

If assented by the Head of State, the law will see the President, his Cabinet Secretaries, legislators, county government officials and other civil servants declare their source of wealth and make it public.

It will give the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) the mandate to forward the cases to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to open criminal charges against a corrupt officer.

Speaking in Voi, young people in the area claimed that the ongoing massive looting of public funds has been made fashionable by officers who show off their accumulated wealth.

"We rarely see any successful prosecution of those who loot public funds. That has made Kenyans normalise corruption," said a youth, Norman Mwadime.

Last year, Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu's report questioned the spending of part of Sh153 million to fight Covid-19 by Taita Taveta county. Up to date, no one has been questioned regarding the spending.