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Lamu County on the spot over failure to utilize Sh157 million Covid-19 approved fund

Questions are being raised over the Lamu County government’s political will to address the current Covid-19 crisis as it emerged that the current administration has failed to utilize the Sh157 million supplementary budget approved by the county assembly two months ago.
With less than a month to go before the current 2019/2020 financial year closes, a section of Lamu County assembly members have expressed doubts over the governor’s motivation to address the pandemic crisis, though the county is yet to register a single positive Covid-19 case.
Speaking to KNA Thursday after a county assembly sitting, Witu MCA Jonathan Mketa stated that the county government had failed to address the raging coronavirus crisis due to vested political interests.
At the heart of the pending crisis is a tussle between the county assembly and the county executive government’s disagreement over how the supplementary funds should be disbursed.
The county assembly had approved the Sh 157 million budget and made amendments to the Bill as passed two months ago, but Governor Fahim Twaha rejected the amendments and instead opted for a revised budget.
“The county government needs to rise to the occasion and ensure that the funds are put use to alleviate the crisis that the county is facing,” Mketa stated, expressing concern that with Witu being the gateway ward to Lamu, it would be the most affected in case of an outbreak within Lamu County.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Hongwe Ward Representative James Komu who is also the assembly’s health committee chairman, who stated that there was a need for the county government to address the current plight of the unused funds.
“We expect the hospitals to be fully kitted with ventilators, ICU beds and personnel in case of an outbreak and the onus is upon the county executive to rise to the occasion ensure the usage of the funds approved,” he added.
Nominated MCA Amina Kale who also spoke to KNA stated that the county executive may well be sitting on a time bomb in the face of a pending crisis.
“In case there is an outbreak in Lamu, residents will suffer due to the executive’s lethargic pace to address the Covid-19 crisis,” she said, adding that the number of vulnerable families was already on the rise due to loss of jobs in the tourism and fishing sectors.
The current standoff between the county assembly and the county executive means the funds could as well be returned back to the National Treasury for use in the next financial year if the impasse is not resolved.
The county assembly has insisted in a written memo that the Governor had failed to state his objections to the house within the stipulated 14 days for revision by the house, and as per the law then budget had then passed entirely with the amendments that had been ratified by the house.
However, in a telephone interview with Governor, he insisted that a new budget had been reworked for the county assembly’s approval this week.
He further stated that despite the county having exhausted its funds in addressing crisis emanating from COVID-19, his administration has already begun the disbursement of foodstuffs to vulnerable families within Moa and Chalaluma areas which have also been afflicted by heavy floods.
He also intimated that out of the Sh5 billion that the national government had set aside to address Covid-19 nationwide, Lamu would only receive Sh13 million which will also require the approval of the county assembly before it can be utilized.
However, he expressed optimism that the current standoff between the county’s two arms of government will be resolved soon in a bid to address the socio-economic crisis that the global pandemic has brought upon the coastal county.
By Amenya Ochieng

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