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Economy

Auditor probes MCAs’ Sh3.71bn travel allowances

Auditor-General Edward Ouko at a past function. PHOTO | FILE
Auditor-General Edward Ouko at a past function. PHOTO | FILE 

Auditor-General Edward Ouko is investigating the billions of shillings paid to members of county assemblies (MCAs) as travel allowances amid concerns of fraudulent payment.

Mr Ouko on Tuesday said his auditors are collecting information at county assemblies, which will see affected MCAs ordered to refund the extra allowances.

The 47 assemblies spent Sh3.71 billion on foreign and domestic travel in the year to last June and have budgeted Sh3.6 billion this year for mileage expenses.

“How much did it cost to go to Israel? What should it have cost? If there’s any difference, it has to be refunded,” said Mr Ouko.

“This report will not go to MCAs. It will be directed to the Senate so that it can summon the MCAs. I believe that a report such as this will send a big message that sanity has to come back.”

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MCAs have been criticised for wasting taxpayers’ cash on numerous trips abroad involving large delegations. In the 2013/14 report, Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo recommended that foreign travel be minimised to enhance prudent use of public funds.

Last August, the Foreign ministry said that some Kenyan missions had raised concern over the frequency and large number of visiting MCAs, with some delegations running to 50 people.

This prompted the Senate to request the auditor-general to investigate the importance and cost of the trips.

The Budget report showed that the top five spending county assemblies were Migori (Sh215 million), Nakuru (Sh211 million), Kiambu (Sh182 million), Kajiado (Sh175 million) and Machakos (Sh140 million).

The top five spenders have a substantially smaller number of members compared to Nairobi which has 127 MCAs but spent Sh110 million.

Migori also topped the list of county assemblies whose spending surpassed the approved budget.

Migori breached the budget by 170 per cent, followed by Vihiga (151 per cent), Bungoma (132 per cent), Embu (109 per cent) and Nyandarua (102 per cent). County executives also spent big on travel with their total expenditure at Sh4.4 billion for the year to last June.

On Tuesday, Commission of Administrative Justice chairman Otiende Amollo said foreign trips were being promoted as important for enlightening MCAs on devolution, yet the bulk of the countries visited had centralised governments.

“In some instances, MCAs allocated themselves money and said they were travelling to Israel. We discovered that five of them were holed up in their houses for two weeks,” said Mr Amollo.

MPs have also spent billions of shillings on foreign trips, which has sparked public anger. The legislators spent Sh3 billion on local and foreign travel in the fiscal year ended June.

Much of the Sh2.4 billion spent on local travel went to MPs’ mileage claims for trips to their constituencies.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission is looking at the system used to pay travel allowance claims amid concern of fraud.

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