Economy

How budget chief plans to kill false unpaid bills

cob

Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakango. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The Controller of Budget (CoB) will not accept fresh payment requests from counties and entities of the national government for the year ended June, in the latest move to curb a surge in fake claims that bleed taxpayers billions of shillings.

CoB Margaret Nyakango says counties, ministries, State departments and corporations had up to mid-last month to table all invoices for the 2021/22 financial year.

The decision comes amid growing cases of rogue officers across the two tiers of government who use the transition period to generate fake invoices long after the end of a financial year, exacerbating pilferage of public funds.

Data from the CoB shows that ineligible pending bills across the 47 counties stood at Sh108.01 billion as at March, a figure that Ms Nyakango says is higher than last year, pointing to the extent of the fake claims.

The value of ineligible pending bills at the national government remains unclear but the total unpaid bills rose to Sh434.5 billion in March this year from Sh307.8 billion a year ago.

“We gave them up to 15th August to take stock and give us what they had as of June 30th. We have closed that window and said that any invoice that did not come within that time will not be accepted. We are not accepting any new pending bills,” Ms Nyakango told Business Daily.

This means that any requisition made across the two levels of government must match the invoice number in the various lists sent to the CoB last month.

The move is a first by the public office that is mandated with overseeing the expenditure of public funds as the CoB moves in to tame rogue officers who collude to steal funds through the perennial problem of pending bills.

Ms Nyakango fingered Nairobi and Mombasa counties as leading culprits in the dirty game adding that some of the devolved units at first protested the decision to lock all pending bills.

“They want a fluid situation so that they (rogue officers) can file invoices as and when they want. As we sit here, some of these officers are busy manufacturing and updating these invoices. When we gave the notice some of these counties went through the roof in protest,” she said.

Some new county chiefs who were elected on August 9 have also flagged pending bills saying that some of the claims do not have tangible work done or goods delivered.

Nyandarua county governor Kiarie Badilisha said he will not authorise payment of Sh800 million in pending bills until they are audited.

The county boss added that the claims have been fabricated and do not reflect the work done in parts of the country.

The two levels of government have been blamed for delaying payments to contractors for works done and services delivered years ago, forcing some of the businesses to shut due to cash-flow woes.

Many firms bid for government contracts because the State is the biggest spender. There has been a similar appetite for county deals given the billions of shillings that devolved units receive every financial year

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