How MCAs blew Sh440m in fictitous workshops, travels
A report by Office of the Auditor-General has detailed how Members of County Assembly (MCAs) blew millions of shillings in ‘ghost’ foreign and domestic travels.
Besides, taxpayers may have also lost millions of shillings in non-existent training expenses and sitting allowances, putting to question integrity of the lawmakers, some of whom are seeking re-election in the August 9 General Election.
Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu, the MCAs, in a bid to quench their thirst for public funds, crashed the expenditure ceilings for travels and sitting allowances in total violation of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.
For instance, in her latest audit report for the financial year ended June 2020, Nairobi City County Assembly paid MCAs Sh75.7 million as sitting allowances.
However, during the audit, the management did not provide attendance reports, including biometric data on the MCAs, and dates the respective committee meetings were held.“As a result, the propriety of payments totalling Sh75.7 million could not be confirmed,” the report.
In what exacerbates the legislators’ appetite for public funds, the city Ward Reps allegedly also spent Sh97.8 million on foreign travel and subsistence allowances.
However, payment vouchers for the expenditure were not supported with travel documents to confirm the occurrence and validity of the expenditure, the audit details.
“As a result, the occurrence, accuracy, and propriety of the payments totalling Sh97.8 million could not be confirmed,” it says. Additionally, the Assembly made payments of 2.96 million to various members of staff in the year under review.
“Payments were for refunds of costs the staff had reportedly incurred on domestic travel and subsistence allowances while on official duty away from the Assembly,” the audit says.
It adds: “However, the refunds were made contrary to provisions of Regulations 91(2) and 93(4) of the County Government Regulations, 2015 that requires such expenditures to be incurred through imprests issued to officers beforehand.”
Gathungu held that no explanation was provided by management on why the staff were not issued with imprests before they embarked on the said duties.
Elsewhere, MCAs in Embu consumed Sh3.85 million equivalent to 87 per cent of the total Sh4.38 million spent on training and were not supported with relevant records such as training needs assessment report, approvals from training committee, invitation letters to course participants, attendance lists, and back to office reports.
“As a result, occurrence of the training courses and propriety of the reported expenditure could not be confirmed,” Auditor states. Similarly, supporting documents for payments totalling Sh3.19 million spent on domestic travel and subsistence were not provided for audit.
Auditor also questioned Sh2.12 million payments for Hospitality Supplies and Services made for hire of conference facilities for meetings held outside the county.
It says: “No satisfactory reasons were provided by management for holding the meetings outside Embu contrary to Treasury Circular No. 20/2015 of November 4, 2015, which requires all Accounting Officers to hold all workshops and retreats within precincts of the duty station where majority of participants work.”
“In the circumstance, the expenditure totalling Sh2.1 million may have been incurred irregularly,” report adds.
In Kericho, Ward Reps spent Sh132 million on domestic travel and subsistence that include Sh2 million and Sh378,000 that were paid to 48 MCAs and 10 staff members respectively while traveling to Mombasa for a meeting on the supplementary budget Financial Year 2019/20 from February 4 to 6, 2020.
“Management did not provide evidence such as attendance register and approvals for the meeting. In the circumstance, the validity of expenditure of Sh2.4 million could not be confirmed,” report adds.
In Meru, the Auditor has questioned expenditure on Hospitality Supplies and Services in respect to the use of goods and services that include Sh24.9 million.
“However, expenditure of Sh3 million was not supported by relevant documents such as invitation letters to meetings/conferences/workshops, signed attendance registers, payment vouchers, approved rates of payments, back to office reports, evidence of travel to and from the meetings, conferences and workshops venues and work tickets,” the audit cites.
And in Murang’a, MCAs spent Sh35 million on foreign travel, which included subsistence allowance claims totalling Sh7.8 million paid to 20 MCAs and members of staff, who were reported to have attended various meetings in foreign countries.
However, examination of records on the trips revealed the staff and MCAs supposedly used their own resources to finance the trips and claimed refunds thereafter. However, there were no records on authority to do so having been granted to them by the Accounting Officer.
In Taita Taveta, financial statements reflect foreign travel and subsistence expenses totalling Sh19.5 million out of which Sh1.1 million relates to costs of attendance at regional games in Kampala, Uganda.
However, travel records including exit and entry stamps on passports used by the participants were not presented for audit.
In Elgeyo Marakwet, the Auditor has questioned Sh21 million spent on foreign travel and subsistence allowances, which includes payments of Sh9 million made to various members.
The use of goods and services balance also includes Sh2.9 million spent on domestic travel and subsistence.
In both instances, the officers were issued with cash, which they immediately expensed, contrary to Regulation 91(1) and Regulation 93(3) of the Public Finance Management (County Governments) Regulations, 2015.
Regulation requires such expenses to be incurred through imprests that the respective payees account for.
Expenditure records indicated that similar payments totalling Sh2.7 million were made to the Members of the County Assembly to enable them write reports in Eldoret and Kisumu.
“In view of lack of sufficient records on how the cash issued to the payees was spent, the propriety of the expenditure totaling Sh21 million could not be confirmed,” the report.
Besides, Irregular Expenditure on Meetings and Retreats Expenditure records indicated that per diem totalling Sh4.4 million were issued to MCAs and other staff for use in retreats and other consultative meetings held in various towns. Similarly, records on operating expenses indicated that Sh2.76 million was paid to MCAs as per diems to enable them write reports and conduct meetings in Eldoret and Kisumu, which could have been conducted within the county.
Meetings and retreats were held contrary to National Treasury Circular No.20/2015 of 4 November, 2015 that banned out of station events to discuss strategy documents, consultants’ reports, or for any other assignments that would ordinarily be done in local offices.
MCAs in Lamu also spent Sh3.1 million on Hospitality Supplies and Services Payments, which were not adequately supported with records showing how the expenditure was incurred.
Missing records included local purchase orders for goods procured, signed payment schedules for allowances paid to officers, transportation and attendance records, among others.
Besides, Domestic Travel and Subsistence Expenditures totalling Sh14.5 were not supported with invitation letters and travel documents to confirm occurrence of the journeys cited and records of attendance and back-to-office reports prepared thereafter.