The most recent audit report by the Auditor General for the fiscal year 2019/2020 has identified numerous corruption loopholes in the Meru County government.
Suspicious Domestic Travel Expenditure for County Staff, Irregular Procurement Procedures, Missing County Revenues, Unauthorized Payments, Irregular Recruitments, Failure to Publicize and Publish Contracts, Missing Funds from Business Permits and Bursaries awarded to ghost students were among the glaring loopholes picked out by the audit report.
The report reveals that the County paid a sum of Ksh 50 Million to acquire milk for Early Childhood and Development Education (ECDE) children. However, there were no supporting documents including delivery notes and list of recipient schools in the County.
The milk project has in recent days attracted attention from several Meru residents, with a section of leaders calling on the County administration to account for the funds.
The Governor’s communications department however blames COVID-19 for the lost funds.
“Governor Kiraitu rolled out the free ECDE Milk Program across the County which went on well until COVID-19 pandemic struck in the first term of school calendar in 2020. The procurement process of the milk was already done and the milk delivered to schools,” reads part of the statement.
It is further alleged that the Education Department coordinated with chiefs and other local authorities to get children back to school to consume the milk. It is however not known in which schools the milk was consumed, and for how many days.
Bursaries for Ghost Students
The auditors also found that payments were done amounting to Ksh 46 Million by the County Administration for bursaries to 16,781 beneficiaries. However, there was no evidence that 697 beneficiaries applied for the said bursaries, hence a questionable payment of Ksh 1.76 Million.
Although the concerned County staff were given time to provide evidence of bursary application letters, admission letters, bursary committee appointments and vetting details, none of these details were availed for audit.
In addition, it was discovered that Ksh 2.77 Million was disbursed to 686 ‘ghost students’, whose names were provided but with no admission numbers. A further 378 beneficiaries of the bursaries were found to be students sharing similar admission numbers in their respective schools.
“In the circumstances, the accuracy and validity of the bursaries and other educational benefits amount of Ksh 46.4 Million as at 30 June, 2020 could not be confirmed.” reads part of the audit report.
Although the County Executive paid Ksh 18.6 Million to a firm for the construction of the Governor’s Official Residence in Meru Town, the project was found to be stalled, with the contractor not on site.
The Governor’s residence is a project set to cost the taxpayer a sum of Ksh127,124,366. A review of the contract and an addendum to the contract revealed that the contract period was for 24 weeks from 15 October, 2018 to 14 April, 2019.
The County also paid Ksh 8,768,550 to a firm for the construction of the Deputy Governor’s Official Residence in Meru Town, with the project also stalled and the contractor not on site at the time of the audit.
Other major financial flaws picked by the audit report include missing revenues collected by the Meru County Government, including a sum of Ksh 21,332,964 collected at Kaguru Agricultural Training Centre (ATC) and Mitunguu Agricultural Mechanization Services (AMS).
“Review of documents presented for audit verification revealed that the revenue of Ksh 21,332,964 collected from the two institutions was not deposited into the County Revenue Fund, contrary to the Public Finance Management Regulations,” reads part of the audit report.
The contract documents for the construction of a boundary wall at Githongo Stadium at a contract price of Kshs13,845,480 were also unavailable for audit.
Meru Youth Service
A similar report for the 2018/2019 fiscal year revealed that the County irregularly paid a sum of Ksh 12.88 Million to two suppliers for boots, uniforms, mattresses, and bed sheets for the Meru Youth Service. However, no store records were available for the said items.
The report also raised queries about the training policy, curriculum, and feasibility on the relevance of the MYS training.
The report further reveals that the County’s revenue management system was poorly managed with conflicting figures of revenue inflows and the amounts fed into the revenue collection billing system.
MYS is a legacy project by Governor Kiraitu, fashioned after the National Youth Service (NYS), and includes paramilitary and technical training with recruits engaging in manual and skilled labor activities across the county.
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