Journalists urged to be watchdog over county funds use

Counties Editor's Pick Governance Kitui

The media has been urged to play their watch dog role in ensuring that the County Governments are accountable and responsible for funds collected, granted or allocated from public coffers.

Journalists attending a one day media influencer’s workshop held in Kitui town Thursday were further advised to act as whistle-blowers in cases of misuse of the public funds, to ensure accountability and responsibility as well promote good governance at the devolved governments.

The workshop was meant to create awareness to the media as influencers to local residents on recently released Kitui County Quarterly Budget Implementation Reports 2021/22 and Auditor General Report for 2019/2020.

The forum organized by Caritas Kitui, a Non-governmental Organisation (NGO) operating in the county, reminded the journalist of their mandate to highlight teething issues emanating from either collection or the implementation of county projects and funded by the taxpayer’s money.

The forum expressed concern that despite audit reports having been released for the first two quarters of the 2021/2022 financial year by the Controller of Budget where several key concerns on suspected misuse of public funds on development projects were pointed out, no one has been held to account.

The report further exposed cases of full payments made to contractors on uncompleted projects works, such as a feeder road in Kitui town where the contractor was paid a whooping whole project amount of Sh39 million yet project’s works remain unfinished.

The report also expressed concerns by the Controller of Budget concerning defence by the Kitui county government that late disbursements of development funds, resulted to delay on submission of budget reports by the county treasury.

“The Kitui Empowerment Funds report is yet to be submitted and the reason for failure to submit the funds is not convincing. The funds was operationalised in April 2021 and the Kitui county government treasury had time to prepare submit the report,” the Auditor General says.

Other teething issues featured in the Audited report includes high wage bills of 48 per cent of the recurrent budget against recommended 35 per cent ceiling, thus derailing funds for development projects and other recurrent operating funds.

“This is clearly indicated in the manual payroll which over Sh400 million wage bill was paid thus contradicting regulation of the Integrated Financial Management System,” says the Auditor General report.

Caritas Project Coordinator on Governance and Advocacy Unit Kevin Muthui while speaking during the fourth Estate forum expressed concern on the suspected misuse of the public funds as reported by Auditor General and lamented lack of oversight and ignorance by local stakeholders.

“These are issues which question integrity and commitment of officers in charge of the various departments in the county government and all they need is a watchful eye. It is your work to sensitise the public and the less concerned on the whole process of collection, allocation as well as the utilisation of the county revenue and the local residents entitlement in the expenditures on development and other funds,” Muthui advised the journalist.

He also encouraged use of the fast-growing social media as an alternative media channel, alongside the mainstream media in efforts to influence and create awareness to the local residents as well as engaging the executive and the county legislators.

“Our social media fan base is enormous with the growing number of smart phone owners as well as network availability in most parts of the country hence necessitating the need to use the social media in your work,” he added.

The Coordinator further encouraged the media to seek audience with the budget and appropriation committee members who formulate the budget and the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs), who also approves funds’ spending and oversee its implementation, in order to gather enough and accurate information for consumption by the residents.

By Denson Mututo

 

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