Auditor flags Sh1bn Prisons payout to ‘ghost’ suppliers

Principal Secretary for Correctional Services Zainab Hussein. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The State Department for Correctional Services is on the spot over irregular payments of nearly Sh1 billion to suppliers who did not make any deliveries to the Kenya Prisons, rekindling the National Youth Service type rip-off.

A fresh audit shows that the department paid out Sh975.7 million in respect of pending bills on behalf of various prison stations.

“However, verification of the payment vouchers at the stations revealed various irregularities as…suppliers who were paid at the headquarters were not known to the stations,” said Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu.

The Prisons payments mirror the NYS scandal in which Sh971 million of public funds were stolen through fictitious invoices for goods and stationery. The scandal later went up to Sh1.8 billion.

The Prisons Department hosts 129 correctional institutions out of which nine are maximum-security prisons where the suppliers provide a variety of items including foodstuffs.

Ms Gathungu says an examination of payment records revealed that payments totalling Sh555,652,356 and another were made at the State department’s headquarters on behalf of various prison stations.

Ms Gathungu says a further Sh419,976,543 of the pending bills was overpaid compared to actual deliveries at the stations.

The Auditor-General says verification of the payment vouchers at the stations revealed that suppliers paid had never been contracted to supply rations in those stations.

She said payment vouchers were attached to unverifiable S13 accountable documents and stations having not ordered for or received ration on the dates indicated in the delivery notes.

“Seven prison stations book not reflecting orders or deliveries of the same and prison stations counter receipt book register not having series of those counter receipt vouchers (S13) used,” said MS Gathungu in an audit of the department books of account for the year ended June 2020.

She said an audit of the historical pending bills detailed data and a comparison between the Treasury’s Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) and total expenditure returns at prison stations level revealed that Sh419,976,543 was overpaid compared to actual deliveries at the stations.

“The actual supplies amounted to Sh190,347,882 and IFMIS payments amounted to Sh610,324,425,” she said.

Ms Gathungu said the unsupported claims or payments relate to historical supplies covering financial years 2014/15 up to 201718

“It should, however, be noted that the above matters regarding irregular payments, doubtful procurements and overpayments are currently under investigation by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

The fresh irregularities come barely three months after Parliament directed Correctional Services PS Zeinab Hussein, to quickly settle verified pending bills to traders who supplied the Prisons with goods and services worth Sh6.2 billion.

“Within two months upon adoption of this report by the House, the accounting officer must ensure that all the pending bills amounting to Sh6,204,906,533 and duly verified are fully settled.

“A report on the same to be submitted to the National Assembly at the lapse of the aforestated two months duration,” the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said in a report adopted by the House.

The State Department of Correctional Services had Sh6.2 billion worth of unpaid claims as of last December.

In its report, PAC, chaired by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, said the National Treasury Pending Bills Closing Committee had since finalised the pending bills verification exercise.

Ms Hussein had informed the MPs that the department was making final verifications of all claims for supplies made in the 2011/12 and 2017/18 financial years.

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