Fuel suppliers halt services in Turkana as contractors protest Sh800m debt

Turkana County Treasury office in Lodwar town. County Finance Chief Officer Abraham Losinyen assured disgruntled contractors of the devolved unit's commitment to clear all pending bills amounting to over Sh 800 million.

Photo credit: Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

Companies supplying fuel to the Turkana County government's emergency services like water trucking to drought-stricken villages and ambulances have halted supplies until they are fully paid.

The contractors are protesting nonpayment of over Sh800 million.

They claim some of them are owed over Sh20 million that has not been paid for the last two years. 

"Our businesses are closing down and banks that gave us loans are auctioning our assets," one of the contractors said.

Finance Chief Officer Abraham Losinyen said the complaints are genuine.

"It is unfortunate that we have had the challenge for the last two months and it has affected the cash flow in the local economy. The Controller of Budget is moving fast to approve the requisitions to ensure we get funds and pay our suppliers," he said.

He confirmed that critical county government programmes like emergencies and the monitoring of projects had been affected.

He explained that the county government had accumulated a bill of over Sh1.2 billion over the last two months in debts owed to suppliers, operational costs, staff dues and other costs.

He said it was not possible to have a requisition of Sh1 billion for 100 companies and that is why they request the amounts in bits of Sh50 million to Sh100 million through the Controller of Budget.

"As we speak, the office of the Controller of Budget in Turkana is currently processing our requisition and the team is working hard to ensure bills are pushed through for approval. [We expect that] in the next one week we will unlock the stalemate to be able to pay suppliers," Mr Losinyen said.

He noted that between September last year and March this year, they had paid over Sh300 million for 117 eligible bills.

"Through physical meetings with some of the contractors, we have given them assurance and commitment to pay all bills, including those that haven't been paid for the last two years. There is no debt the government can refuse to pay so long as it is fully backed up," he said.

Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) Turkana branch chairman Pius Ewoton asked the county government to honour the commitment to pay bills promptly.

"There should be prompt payment of all pending bills. The funds should not be diverted to other government programmes," Mr Ewoton said.

He said the local economy primarily relies on paid local suppliers and there is little money in circulation currently and services from critical county government departments are poor.


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