Christopher Omulele

Vihiga County Assembly Speaker Christopher Omulele before the Senate's County Public Accounts Committee at KICC, Nairobi, on September 18, 2023.

| Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Senate declares Vihiga County Assembly a crime scene, gives EACC 60 days to investigate

A Senate oversight committee has ordered the anti-graft agency to investigate financial irregularities at the Vihiga County Assembly.

Describing the county assembly as a “crime scene”, senators gave the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) 60 days to complete investigations into matters raised by the auditor-general with a view to arresting and prosecuting culpable officials.

The county assembly, led by Speaker Chris Omulele, ex-Luanda MP, and Clerk Ambaka Kilinga, has landed in hot water on allegations of irregular payments of allowances and imprests.

In a damning report by Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu for the financial year ending June 2021, the assembly paid Sh2.1 million to 11 MCAs and 10 secretariat staff of an ad hoc committee to compile a report at a Nairobi hotel for eight days between May 2 and June 11, 2021.

A further Sh638,400 was paid on May 18, 2021, as daily subsistence allowance to nine MCAs and seven secretariat staff of an ad hoc committee to prepare a preliminary report on a collapsed county executive gate between May 7 and 9, 2021.
The report noted that the location was not specified and no evidence was provided to show that the MCAs and staff had acknowledged receipt of the payment.

Furthermore, there was no evidence that the team left the assembly premises, as the work ticket for the vehicle allegedly used indicated it was at the station during the three days in question. In its response, the assembly said the report was written in Kisumu and they were paid per diems.

The assembly was also cited for not surrendering imprest accounts worth Sh2.2 million, with six officials holding between two and six imprest accounts worth Sh1.39 million, contrary to the law which states that an imprest holder should surrender the first imprest account before being issued with another.

The report also flagged the county assembly for Sh15.2 million in unexplained discrepancies between financial statements and payments made through the Integrated Financial Management Information System (Ifmis), as well as Sh25.9 million in under-declared transfers from the county treasury to the assembly. Another question was Sh5 million paid to the County Assembly Forum and Sh750,000 to the Society of Clerks without any legal backing.

In a stormy meeting of the Senate County Public Accounts Committee yesterday, the deputy chairman, Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, said the county assembly had systemic problems that needed to be looked into.

The committee called for investigations into the assembly's financial, procurement and human resources systems.

The meeting almost turned chaotic after Speaker Omulele took issue with an EACC official attached to the committee who revealed that there were active investigations in the assembly.

"The county assembly is under serious investigations and we will conclude them very soon," the officer said.

The statement sent Speaker Omulele into a rage as he pounded the table and angrily pointed at the officer, whom he accused of making unfounded allegations.