Counties struggling to pay defunct local authorities debts
Kisii County is among the 47 Counties struggling to pay debts of more than Ksh 50 billion, owed to service providers by the defunct local authorities.
As a result, the pending bills have affected service delivery in all counties. This is, according to Kisii Governor, James Ongwae.
“Telling a county to pay Ksh 1 billion can be very difficult. The fakeness of some of the debts is shocking. Somebody asking to be paid Ksh 7 million for doing nothing,” Mr Ongwae said.
The governor told the Senate Committee on Public Accounts and Investments that the situation has been made worse by delay in release of funds from the National Treasury.
“We are yet to receive funds for January, February and March. Counties are operating under difficult circumstances,” Mr Ongwae added.
Kisii County has a total pending bill of Ksh 963 million.
He said many counties are forced to prioritise payment of salaries at the expense of development to avoid disrupting operations.
The committee promised to summon National Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Henry Rotich, Controller of Budget, Agnes Odhiambo, and Intergovernmental Technical Relations Committee chairman, Prof Karega Mutahi, to explain the matter.
The committee chairman, Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, and Senators Dr Boni Khalwale (Kakamega), Kimani Wamatangi (Kiambu) and John Lonyangapuo (West Pokot) expressed concerns that pending bills inherited from the defunct local authorities must be addressed before the next General Election.
“There are fake pending bills that were fraudulently obtained and run into millions, and there are some doubtful ones and few genuine debts,” Prof Nyong’o said.
He said there is need for a thorough forensic audit and those found to have claimed money fraudulently, should be arraigned in court and surcharged for stealing public funds.
“Service delivery is affected when service providers are not paid on time. We must address pending bills so that they don’t spill over to the next government,” said the committee chairman, Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o.
The governor defended the county against revelations that they were not meeting their local revenue projections saying they had made proactive plans to seal revenue loopholes.
Mr Ongwae said they are working with the Kenya Revenue Authority to improve on revenue collection and avoid over reliance on the funds from the national treasury.
He said the revenue had been affected by pending cases in court that include failure to identify genuine owners of some properties and a suit by some traders who claimed they were being over taxed.
“We were stopped by the courts and for about five months, from collecting revenue. It was very painful for us. I don’t understand how a court can stop a county government from collecting revenue,” the Governor said.