Retired Auditor General FCPA Edward Ouko on Friday decried wanton plunder of public money that went on under the administration of former Siaya governor Cornel Rasanga.
Ouko was speaking at the governor’s office premises as he presented the financial and human resource and governance systems report of a taskforce that he was leading.
The taskforce, that consisted of seven members with Ouko as chairperson, was commissioned by governor James Orengo in October last year.
The formation of the taskforce was preceded by a dogged whistleblowing that had alleged that ksh600 million was corruptly carted away in 2021 and another ksh400 million in 2022.
Ouko underscored that in 2021 and 2022, an “inferno” of corruption was consuming Siaya county’s financial accounts; more than even the “smoke” that people had been seeing.
The taskforce report said that the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) had been abused and a lot of public funds were lost through the imprest account; to fatten individual pockets.
Only designated county officers should have access to IFMIS but the report established that at times “such rights are not assigned to the appropriately designated officers.”
This, the report said, eroded the internal controls and integrity of IFMIS.
“The administrative structure of the IFMIS section is weak and lacing the competence to manage such a critical docket,” reads the report.
Ouko explained that even some officers who had been re-designated to other areas of responsibility could still access the system.
The report also found out that IFMIS’ first-in-first-out principle was often manipulated; as there are instances of swapping of payments for invoices not in that particular batch.
“to request authorization of withdrawals from the county revenue fund, payments are batched and presented to the controller of budget. They approval of these payments by the COB is sent to the central bank,” the report reads.
It explained: “Ideally, these funds should be used to make payments in accordance with the requisition schedule approved by the controller of budget.”
Certain payment vouchers that are processed through IFMIS are not fully supported with appropriate documents; implying that the control mechanisms in the payment process prior to entry of the data into IFMIS were not fully complied with.
Ouko said that the Imprest Account has been used to hold large sums of money which are transferred from the development and recurrent accounts to wards the end of the financial year.
“The internal audit of August 2021, indicates that transactions amounting to over ksh 332 million made from the imprest account did not qualify as petty cash due to their magnitude and nature,” the report reads.
The report further noted that there is rampant abuse of the imprest system.
“When you look at the withdrawals from the bank, they are names of innocent people and some of them are not even employees of the county government,”ouko said.
The taskforce established that there was lack of standardization of the standing imprest for office operations and prevalent instances of issue of imprest officers where the application and use of said imprest could not be determined.
“The internal audit of August 2021 indicates that over ksh.296 million was paid as óther staff claims/allowance’ implying that payments that ought to have been processed through IFMIS were made through the imprest account,” Ouko said.
Of pending bills, the taskforce noted that Siaya county owes supplies and contractors money amounting to Ksh1.36 billion as at December 8, last year.
Of which, Ksh436 million relates to development expenditure and Ksh 573 million to recurrent expenditure.
“For a large number of the projects, the contracts sum at the time of award exceeded the budget available which indicates over commitment in the budget of the 2021/2022 financial year and which is irregular,” the report established.
There is risk of the local Service orders overriding the existing contract terms and create a window for overpayment, the report reads.
The pending bills, the taskforce approximates, equals to the financial deficit of approximately ksh1,12 billion.
On the issues of the alleged embezzlement of Ksh600 million which hit the airwaves in 2021, and which the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC) has been investigating, the taskforce established that a total of ksh1.76 million was paid to individuals in the 2020/2021 financial year.
Of that figure, Ksh780 million was paid to various staff from the recurrent account and Ksh296 million through imprest.
“It is doubtful that these payments contributed or related to development: the payments were material, repetitive and being paid on account of imprest to individuals in breach of the provisions of the PFM which provides that imprest are for petty and emergency expenses.”
Ksh 406 million was processed in IFMIS between July 1 and 13, 2022 for payment of various expenditures. This is the subject of the alleged embezzlement of ksh400 which erupted during the transition period in August last year.
Ouko said that only Ksh252 million had been paid as at January 17, 2023 and therefore the claim of Ksh400 million was incorrect.
Ksh9 million was paid to assembly staff between July 1 and September 29, 2022 was paid to county assembly staff yet it is not clear what such an amount was for as it was not budgeted.
The taskforce has urged the Siaya people to wait for EACC and the directorate of criminal investigations (DCI) to conclude investigations on the alleged plunder.
“The two alleged incidents of cash embezzlement are under investigation by national agencies. It is the said investigations that will establish whether there were actual cash embezzlement and if so apportion culpabilities accordingly.”
Ouko noted that the irregular transfer of funds was being done through individual accounts in commercial banks; and of individuals who were “very innocent, some not even employees of the county government.”
The taskforce said that the ghost workers in Siaya stands at 111 people. Accordingly, the committee has now called on governor Orengo to conduct a head county of the county staff.
“There are ghost workers. You must let people line up and count how many they are. Thast is my answer to ghost workers’ problem,” oukos said.
The taskforce found out that between 4000 and 5000 county staff, among them casuals, are being paid manually, instead of the Integrated personnel and payroll database (IPPD).
As such, the report says, “the manual payroll, which is a list of persons to be paid submitted by respective departments, is prone to manipulation”.
Ouko stressed that it is annoying that an individual is unprocedurally walking away with loads of cash yet people who supplied the county are languishing in distress.
Governor Orengo promised to further interrogate the report and act approapriately.