Governors oppose plan to monitor county accounts

Council of Governors

Council of Governors (CoG) Chairperson Anne Waiguru with her colleagues during a media briefing at the CoG offices in Nairobi yesterday.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Governors have threatened to go to court over the decision by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) to hand the Controller of Budget (CoB) real-time access to county bank accounts.

The county bosses, through Council of Governors Chairperson Anne Waiguru, yesterday said granting such access undermines the counties’ institutional autonomy.

The governors said the move also goes against the agreement between the counties and CBK, terming the “unilateral decision by CBK to grant the OCOB (Office of the Controller of Budget) real-time access to county bank accounts is unconstitutional, unacceptable and without due regard to procedures”.

They accused CoB Margaret Nyakang’o of attempting to overstep her mandate, which the governors said is limited to overseeing the implementation of the budgets by authorising withdrawals from public funds.

They also termed the move as discriminatory since the same is not applied at the national government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

“We ask the Controller of Budget to desist from making such requests, failure to which the COG will be left with no alternative other than to seek redress in a court of law,” said Governor Waiguru in a letter to Dr Nyakang’o.

The letter dated December 8 has been copied to Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njunguna Ndung’u and CBK Governor Patrick Njoroge.

“Extending such access to the OCOB is tantamount to overstepping and encroaching the functions and mandate of the Office of the Auditor General. The outcome of such a system would be an introduction of unwarranted bureaucracies in financial expenditure for Counties,” added Ms Waiguru.

CoB has been in a long running standoff with CBK in demanding access. In a recent interview, Dr Nyakang’o revealed that the banking regulator had developed a payment platform that will next month give her office real-time access to the accounts.

Initially, the CBK had turned down the requests from the CoB to access accounts of the 47 counties real-time, a blockade that hampered efforts to track expenditures by the agency charged with authorising withdrawal of public funds.

Some counties have exploited the loophole to making discriminatory payments to contractors besides lodging fictitious claims.

Additionally, the counties have been accused of taking advantage of this loophole to strike private arrangements with banks for loans that have accumulated interest and added to their financial woes.

Counties have been flagged for manipulating payment requests approved by the CoB and failing to pay suppliers or contractors who do not give kick-backs to speed up the release of their cash.

CoB, the public office mandated with overseeing the expenditure of public funds, only monitors the use of funds by the national and county governments through quarterly reports.

Counties and the national government are under the law required to submit reports on their expenditure to the CoB every three months.

Expenditure at both levels of government must be approved by the CoB highlighting the critical role of the office in the management of public funds.

But the counties have manipulated these gaps to make some payments that the CoB says are discriminatory or fictitious.

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