By Joseph Amukoya.
When devolution came into effect under the new constitutional dispensation, hope was rife across the country that the new system would foster cohesion and development.
However despite the huge amounts of money that has trickled down from the national treasury to the counties, very little has been done to quench the thirst of the common mwananchi who was looking up to the fruits of devolution.
In this article, I will give a detailed chronology of events and make recommendations that require to be addressed urgently to save one of the devolved units (Kakamega County Assembly) which is on the brink of collapse.
As a resident of Kakamega County, I write this article with a clear mind and not malice or witch hunting.
Being a regular visitor to the assembly since March 2013, I have observed keenly each and every activity of the law making arm of the county government of Kakamega and some of the things going on there have left me in tears.
It is sad that the Speaker Hon. Morris Buluma who is the head of the institution has not only supervised but taken active part in grand corruption and nepotism at the assembly.
To start with, the Speaker was paid hundreds of thousands of shillings in 2013 to tour Brazil, a trip he never took.
After absconding duty for weeks, he came to the floor of the house and read a report on how devolved units work in Brazil yet he never travelled. To date he has not accounted for the money he was paid.
The Speaker further single sourced for services of two consultation firms one owned by a Mr. Werunga Murunga and the other owned by one Mr. Akhabi through which millions of shillings from the County Assembly coffers have been siphoned.
In my investigations, I found out that on average whenever any of the two firms is engaged either to train MCAs or Members of staff for a day or two not less than Sh. 1.5 million is paid to them.
It is believed that a big chunk of this money is wired back to the Speaker who is always on the forefront pushing for their immediate payment.
Furthermore, my investigations revealed that the Speaker received a cheque of Sh. 1.2 million to purchase furniture for his Milimani residence which was also renovated at an exorbitant figure which only a forensic audit can reveal.
However I know about Sh. 20 million was spent to renovate the county assembly offices and the Speakers residence. Looking at the works undertaken the figure is too high.
Apart from running the assembly as his personal business, the Speaker who has turned himself into a procurement person and a finance officer has overseen illegal recruitment of staff at the government institution.
In 2013 when he came into office, Buluma refused to absorb officers seconded by the defunct transition authority despite placing an advertisement in the papers for the positions.
The officers however hanged on before he finally absorbed them in October 2014 a year after the advertisement.
The recruitment, the first one under him was not without flaws. For example a fresh graduate of law who is alleged to be his girlfriend was recruited as a first clerk (scale 9) a position equivalent to Job group P in the public service.
This is an officer who should have been absorbed at scale seven which is the entry level for fresh university graduates.
Apart from that, the County Assembly Service Board that undertook the recruitment was not fully constituted since the fourth member who is supposed to come from the public had not been brought on board. She was recruited mid last year.
In February 2015 another recruitment was done same to July 2016 both without the four member in which the Speaker, Clerk Patrick Kamwessar, Majority Leader Kundu Makhanu and Minority Leader Titus Kwoma over employed to rope in their relatives.
As a result majority of the staff among them clerks and support staff bask in the sun all day at the county assembly premises before going home to wait for another day. Others have enrolled for classes to keep themselves busy.
To mention but a few Buluma has employed his relatives, Kamwessar too has employed even her sister in law same to Kwoma and Makhanu who have brought their relatives on board.
Currently the Board is locked up in Kisumu hurrying to shortlist and fill in the remaining vacant positions.
If the recruitment goes through I have no doubt on my mind the bulk of those to be absorbed shall be their relatives and cronies.
Cases of bribery have also been mentioned in the three recruitments the board has undertaken. For example in 2015 one Harry Kidiga Hongo claimed he bribed the board with Sh. 400, 000 and managed to secure a job as a second clerk assistant alongside her girlfriend who was also absorbed in the same capacity.
Hongo later became arrogant and brushed shoulders with everybody at the assembly and the executive because he had bought the job.
It is a fake letter that he wrote to a commercial bank signed by the Chief Executive Officer of a leading SACCO in the county that unmasked him and sent shivers across the board.
In the letter Hongo sought to convince the Bank to advance him a loan since he had cleared his Sh. 3 million at the Sacco.
This prompted the Board to probe him. The Clerk wrote to Moi University Eldoret to ascertain if Hongo’s academic papers were genuine.
In February 2016, Moi University Registrar of Academic Affairs wrote back to the County Assembly Service Board saying that the certificate number of the Bachelor of Political Science and Public Administration degree which Hongo used to secure employment was fake. It was then discovered that Hongo never stepped in any degree class at the university.
The clerk wrote Hongo a letter to show cause why which he did not respond to. But questions linger. A year after Moi University confirmed the fake degree no action has been taken and the County Assembly still pays his salary.
Do they fear that Hongo will spill the beans? Why is he walking scot free after committing fraud of that nature?
Therefore my concern is that the recruitment which was done with the board’s interest to rope in their relatives was not thorough.
A part from nepotism it is believed that the bulk of those employed are not qualified while others hold fake degrees.
For example one Paul Ngutuku, an ally of majority leader Kundu Makhanu was absorbed in Job Group M yet he is a form four leaver. This is a person who should be in job group G. We have other members of staff in senior job groups yet they lack the relevant qualifications.
It is this grand corruption and nepotism that has lead to the emergence of splinter groups among MCAs and Members of Staff.
For example we have vocal MCAs who go by the name “Directors”. To silence them, Buluma and the Service Board have employed the MCAs children and relatives.
Others have been awarded tenders to supply goods and services at the assembly. Even though this is unethical and amounts to conflict of interest, they take home attractive packages for goods they don’t even supply.
They include Joe Serenge (MCA Shirere), Marindi (MCA Manda Shivanga), Kelvin Olengo (MCA Namamali), Abel Mutimba (MCA Kholera ward), Bernard Omboko (MCA Kisa East), Bernard Lukulu (MCA Idahko South), Alex Khamasi (Nominated MCA), Albert Wetundu (MCA Shirugu Mugai) among others.
The board also gives them cash awards to silence them and use them to calm down other members whenever there is a storm.
This way the board members, the speaker and the clerk have managed to survive several waves of impeachment motions and continue to embezzle public money.
To confirm that these are not just mere allegations, I want to call for a lifestyle audit of these members at the same time the investigation team that shall dare to take up this matter to look at their bank accounts. You will realize they get regular payments from the County Assembly.
The misuse of public money at the board level has since trickled down to members of staff starting with the finance department headed by Laban Atemba (Principal Finance Officer), Pascal Mwanje (Principal Accountant) and Beatrice Ilavonga (Fiscal analyst).
The arrogant officers collude with the Clerk to siphon millions of shillings from the County Assembly Accounts.
Anytime the County Assembly Account held at cooperative bank Kakamega branch is credited, cheques fly left right and center and within a few days Sh. 30 million is missing.
Whenever the account is credited the board holds meetings sometimes at night to plant the “eating”.
It is during this period that the Executive banking at the Kakamega Cooperative branch is owned by MCAs, Kakamega County Assembly staff and rogue suppliers.
Pascal Mwanje, Principal Accountant becomes a marked man. At this time, he walks with the County Assembly cheque book in his pocket and can look for the clerk any time even travels all the way to Webuye or Kitale to get the cheques signed.
Apart from the finance officers paying themselves for trips they don’t attend, these they collude with suppliers some who don’t even supply anything but they are paid so as to wire the money back to them.
They present bloated budgets for public participation or whenever committees are going out and pocket the money.
They also collude with members of staff (mostly their girlfriends) who present fictitious claims which by now runs into millions of shillings which they share. They also enlist their girlfriends on trips.
This has brewed discontent among female members of staff with those inclined to the Board and finance officers exhibiting arrogance and a flashy lifestyle. Their names don’t miss on any given trip. The effect has also hit marriages with the married ladies having problems at home.
They finance team further colludes with hotels where these seminars and trainings are held to siphon public money.
A case in example is Royal City Hotel, Kisumu, Hotel Horizon in Eldoret and a hotel owned by a lawyer in Mombasa where the Speaker takes meetings.
After queries were raised about Royal City Kisumu, they relocated to Victoria Hotel still in Kisumu where they are carrying on with the “eating”.
Also in the same category are procurement officers who issue LPOs to companies that are not prequalified at the same time present fictitious payments for companies that have not delivered any goods or services. They in turn pocket the money.
Some of the Companies to whom millions of shillings have been paid include Wolf, Bomary among others.
To attest to this, in just three years the officers have amassed a lot of wealth. They drive 4×4 vehicles and have invested in parcels of land which they purchase cash even on Sundays when banks are not operating. This means they have stashed money in their houses.
In order to remain untouched when political temperatures are high, these officers pay MCAs extra sitting allowances, others are paid double even for sittings that were not held. Even if you ask for minutes to justify the sittings they are not available.
Whenever an audit is in the offing, committee clerks who hitherto bask in the sun all day spend sleepless nights crafting fictitious minutes to justify the payments.
Even though auditors look at the County assembly books regularly, they are bribed to remain silent and prepare good reports. They in turn offer advice on how to cover up and justify some of the payments in question.
The senate which invited the clerk and his finance team last year has been slow in picking up these matters.
As we speak, the assembly paid millions of shillings to a contractor to start construction of a new chamber on land that had been sold.
Millions were spent on erecting a perimeter wall at the assembly offices which was in existence.
Then there was construction of underground tanks and restaurant which were paid but are not in existence and supply of fire blankets which were never delivered.
These are just tit bits about the dark things happening at the county assembly that’s has affected service delivery.
In four years, the assembly has received billions of shillings but there is nothing to show for it in terms of service delivery.
The assembly has only managed to debate reports and a handful of bills from the executive. Despite millions of shillings having been spent of capacity building and training the quality of debate is wanting. In short residents of Kakamega have gotten a raw deal.
To avoid further loss of public money, I call for speedy investigations on the above mentioned issues among others
My conclusion is this. Just as I started this article, the problem starts at the top. I therefore call for forensic audits of bank accounts of all the people I have mentioned. If possible frisk their houses for money and other assets in their names.
The forensic audit is urgent since any attempts to form ad hoc committees to investigate these matters have failed. The local CID offices also collude with the said officials to stifle investigations.
In my estimation hundreds of millions meant for the people of Kakamega have been lost. Therefore as we gear towards the elections the Speaker Morris Buluma, Majority Leader Robert Makhanu, Minority Leader Titus Kwoma and the other MCAs implicated in the scam are unfit to hold public office.
They must not be allowed to seek any political office until they are cleared of these allegations. In fact they must step aside immediately to pave way for investigations for loss of millions at the assembly.
The clerk Patrick Kamwessar, his finance team and other officers swindling assembly money must be investigated immediately.
They must be compelled to step aside for forensic audit of county assembly books and an audit on their lifestyle.
Furthermore academic papers of all employees of the County Assembly must be verified to ascertain their authenticity.