Excerpt : As the country remains transfixed on the national grand corruption drama making headlines throughout the year, a bigger crisis has been unfolding in the 47 counties.

Friday, November 25, 2016

As the country remains transfixed on the national grand corruption drama making headlines throughout the year, a bigger crisis has been unfolding in the 47 counties. Grand corruption has been devolved, literary. If the annual reports of the Auditor General are anything to go by, nearly half of the shs 1 trillion allocated to the county governments in the past 4 years cannot be properly accounted for. Worse still, there is massive wastage, duplication and inefficiencies that have become the hallmark of the devolved units.

In fact, the Auditor General’s damning exposure may be an understatement. Dozens of petitions that have been filed against various county administrations in the Senate in recent years point to a bigger problem. The Auditor General’s staff in the filed may also have been comprised through financial influence to water down their reports or cover up altogether; the situation could be worse! Petitioners have often complained that EACC officials too are sometimes compromised to delay their findings or simply overlook financial misappropriations in counties. There has been little or no conviction of corruption cases in the counties, as has been the case with the national government.

In all the impeachments that came before the Senate, charges of corruption and abuse of office were demonstrated, and indeed proven beyond any doubt. However, most didn’t succeed because the impeachment grounds were below the Constitutional threshold. On quarterly basis, the Controller of Budget too has routinely exposed the huge wastage on travelling, entertainment and opulent lifestyles of the administrations that govern our counties. Even where funds may been accounted for, evidence of imprudence and misplaced priorities are common.

If the President has been frustrated by the corruption in his national government, the Senators are the most frustrated lot over the massive graft in the counties. They have been inundated with petitions from residents on corruption and abuse of office; its reports forwarded to EACC and the DPP for action gather dust on the shelves. The relevant institutions too do not act upon its recommendations on the Auditor General’s reports. Even in instances where Senate has determined material or persistent breach of Public Financial Management Act that call for stoppage of funds, the Treasury that is mandated to act has declined to do so.

Consequently, the governors continue with their impunity and unbridled contempt for the watchdog institutions. They have rubbished all institutions, accusing them of being anti-devolution. Last week, they unwittingly blamed looting in their counties on IFMIS financial management system. That’s probably the dumbest statement that came from them. Governors cannot accuse their staff of siphoning money from their treasuries using Ifmis because the system is as good as its users want it to be. And its users cannot process any transaction without the prying eyes, and nod, of the governors. Governors have in the past three years sought to dump Ifmis and e-procurement systems and resort to a manual system that will allow them to raid their treasuries at will!  

The Senator’s attempts a couple of years ago to address the misplaced priorities, duplication and wastage through a consultative forum of county leaders that would plan its development was blocked by the governors through the courts. Similarly, their attempt to enhance their oversight capability through funding to their county offices was rejected by the Executive through the National Assembly. Senators would have acquired tools and experts necessary to oversee their respective counties. It is a case of being pennywise and pound-foolish!

The recent politicization of the corruption in counties by the leaders of the political divide is also unhelpful. It is a pitiful attempt to sanitize their party’s strongmen in the counties at the expense of the residents.

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