Governor Ongwae: Counties struggling to pay debts owed defunct local authorities

Governor Ongwae: Counties struggling to pay debts owed defunct local authorities
  • Kisii County Governor James Ongwae wants the senate to back counties to offset the debts owed to contractors by the defunct local authorities.
  • The governor says the huge ending bills are affecting service delivery in some of the 47 counties.
  • As a result, the state of service deliveries has been made worse.
  • Ongwae says prioritise payment of salaries at the expense of development to avoid disrupting operations.

Council of Governors (CoG) has petitioned the senate to support the counties to offset the debts owed to contractors by the defunct local authorities.

Appearing before the Senate public accounts and investments committee on Tuesday, CoG Human resources and social welfare Chairperson Governor James Ongwae said counties are struggling to pay debts of more than shs 50 billion, owed to service providers.

According to Ongwae, the huge pending bills are affecting service delivery in some of the 47 counties.

“Telling a county to pay Sh 1 billion can be very difficult. The bogusness of some of the debts is shocking. Somebody asking to be paid Ksh 7 million for doing nothing,” Ongwae posed.

The governor told the committee that the state of affairs in the counties has been made worse by the delay in the release of funds from the National Treasury.

“We are yet to receive funds for January, February and March. Counties are operating under difficult circumstances,” he added.

Ongwae, who is Kisii County governor, his county a total pending bill of Sh 963 million owed to the supplier and service providers.

The county boss explained that 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 ways to clear the pending bills.

READ ALSO: It’s a done deal: Senator Obure picks top Jubilee operative Albert Nyaundi as his running mate for Kisii gubernatorial

Committee members led by its Chairman Kisumu Senator Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o expressed concerns that pending bills inherited from the former 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.

Prof Nyong’o 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 backed by Senators Dr Boni Khalwale (Kakamega), Kimani Wamatangi (Kiambu) and John Lonyangapuo (West Pokot)

READ ALSO: Alas! Why Kisii County is opposed to the new Ministry of Education co-curricular activity Circular

During the grilling session that was characterised with lots of light moments, Ongwae defended the county against revelations that they were not meeting their local revenue projections saying they had made proactive plans to seal revenue loopholes.

The governor 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 revealed 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 overtaxed.

“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.

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