NAIROBI, Kenya, May 10 – As Nairobi County grapples with huge pending debts that have accrued over the years, the Legal Services department has come under scrutiny.
According to a report by the County Public Accounts Committee, the county spent Sh580 million for legal services contrary to the approved Sh100 Million in the financial year ended June 30.
These queries had been raised by the Auditor General in his report where it emerged that the County Treasury paid an excess of Sh480 million for legal services; over-budget payments made without approval from the County Assembly.
“One of the areas that public funds were blatantly misappropriated during the period under review was expenditure on legal fees, the county illegally paid extra legal fees without seeking approval contrary to the Public Finance Management Act,2012,”reads part of the accounts committee report.
Section 196 of the Public Finance Management Act requires the executive to regularise — in the form of a supplementary budget — any expenditure incurred outside the budget. This should be done within two months of the expenditure.
The payments were also made outside the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMIS) as required by the National Treasury. This made it difficult for the committee to confirm if the payments were made.
The Auditor General went further to raise the issue of whether the County got value for money on the illegal expenditure since the basis of the expenditure was questionable.
The report further indicated that Nairobi County has been losing millions of shillings in outsourcing legal services through collusion between county officers and lawyers.
The report that was adopted unanimously by the Nairobi County Assembly, found the accounting officers during Governor Evans Kidero’s administration culpable of misappropriation of funds and breach of the law.
The report recommends the prosecution of accounting officers in the previous administration i.e. the then Finance Chief Executive Member Gregory Mwakanongo and Finance Chief Officer Luke Gatimu for “irregular payment of legal fees leading to loss of public funds.”
The Auditor General also raised concerns over the validity of huge pending bills that the county has.
The report further recommended a forensic audit of pending legal fees before the payments are made.
“The pending bills committee should conduct a forensic audit of all pending bills before they’re settled with priority given to historical bills,” reads the report.
Already Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko has formed a 10-member pending bills committee to audit and authenticate debts that county owes suppliers for goods and services rendered in the 2015/16 financial year.
The bills accrued from previous administrations amount to Sh60 billion.