As the 46 County Governors convene for the eighth Devolution Conference that has kicked off today in Eldoret, the burning issue on the forefront is the staggering debt owed to suppliers by various county administrations since the inception of devolution in 2013.
According to the most recent report from the Office of the Controller of Budget (CoB), the combined pending bills of the current governors reached a colossal Sh159.73 billion as of March this year. This figure rose from Sh158.80 billion the previous month, hinting at a potentially even higher total.
Elgeyo Marakwet stands alone as the only county that has successfully settled all its outstanding bills.
In contrast, Nyamira and Lamu counties have the smallest pending bills, amounting to Sh90.2 million and Sh29.7 million respectively.
The report by CoB reveals that an astonishing 21 governors are wrestling with pending bills of over Sh1 billion each.
Johnson Sakaja, Governor of Nairobi, leads the pack with a jaw-dropping debt of Sh102.8 billion to suppliers. Such alarming debt levels have raised concerns about potential legal actions from aggrieved suppliers.
The looming legal threats are not limited to Nairobi, as Wajir, Kiambu, and Mombasa find themselves grappling with unpaid bills amounting to Sh5.38 billion, Sh5.33 billion, and Sh4.91 billion respectively.
The situation is equally troubling for other counties like Machakos (Sh2.88b), Murang’a (Sh2.66b), and Kilifi (Sh2.18b).
Margaret Nyakong’o, Controller of Budget, has attributed the surge in pending bills to the delay in disbursing equitable shares by the National Treasury.
She points out that the change in county administrations following the previous year’s general election, coupled with the verification process for pending bills, has contributed to the accumulation of debt.
The Controller of Budget expressed her concern, stating, “Untimely approval of supplementary budget estimates to adopt prior-year pending bills in the current budget, political interference, and refusal by successive governments to honor obligations led to payment delays.”
In response to the issue, some governors have established internal committees to scrutinize pending bills for legitimacy.
Mombasa and Murang’a, for instance, have managed to reduce their pending bills by nearly Sh1 billion as of February.
Nyakong’o also identified fiscal malpractices hampering effective budget implementation.
She called for counties to adopt automated payroll systems to prevent fraudulent activities by corrupt county officials, saying, “The manual payroll is prone to abuse and may lead to loss of public funds where there is a lack of proper controls.”
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