What price a cup of tea? The answer if you are the Siaya County Assembly is Sh285 million. Admittedly that’s for a lot of tea, not just a cup, but according to an audit report that’s what was spent by the county government on tea during seminars between August 2020 and August 2021.
A lot of tea was of course required during meetings to discuss the under-funding of the agriculture and education sectors.
Former Auditor-General Edward Ouko
The report team led by former Auditor-General Edward Ouko found it wasn’t just the cost of tea that gave rise to concerns. Sh10 million, for example, had been withdrawn by individuals in just one week but the payments were not accounted for. Moreover, the people who drew out the most money were not even employees of the county.
The rot in Siaya County goes deeper. The investigation team found that for many projects run by the county the contract sum was larger than the budget available. The pending bills were almost equal to the deficit of Sh1.12 billion so the carrying forward of projects were not supported by funding.
That’s Not Petty Cash
The County’s imprest payment system was also found to be open to widespread abuse. The report revealed transactions adding up to Sh332,842,954 were made from the imprest account but which did not count as ‘petty cash’.
A further Sh296,021,578 was paid out as other staff claims and allowances. And Sh25,167,233 was paid out between July 1 and September 29 alone, to individuals for ‘training activities’ (where presumably they drank tea).
Over the same three-month period Sh159,200,000 was handed over to individual members of staff from the impress account and Sh9,236,000 paid to assembly staff. How the money used is not known and it wasn’t budgeted for.
Overall the investigation by the task force found ‘gross misappropriation’ of public funds running into billions of Shillings over the last three financial years including payments to “ghost workers”.
The report found that that neither the County Public Service Board or the Director of Human Resources knew exactly how many ‘workers’ were on the County’s payroll.
No wonder over 20, 000 residents recently put in applications for just 300 jobs advertised by the County Public Service Board (CPSB). Good work and perks if you can get it.