Makueni County’s proactive way to deal with corruption lauded

The County Government of Makueni has parted with tradition by inviting the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to a roundtable on matters pertaining corruption prevention.

During a consultative meeting held in Wote last month, EACC Commissioner Mr. John Ogalo expressed his gratitude specifically to Governor Mutula Kilonzo Junior for the bold step.

“We welcome this initiative as it demonstrates commitment on your part to address corruption and unethical practices in the county government,” he said, appreciating the county for its “Whole-of-Government Approach” in tackling corruption.

In September, the County Government of Makueni invited the Commission to carry out a review of its systems, policies, procedures and practices. The Commission however, having had a Systems Review in the county in late 2019 proposed, to which the County Government agreed, a consultative meeting to work out modalities of implementation of the report of the 2019 review.

EACC’s Director of Preventive Services, Mr Vincent Okong’o presented the 2019 Corruption Risk Assessment (CRA) report into the systems, policies, procedures and practices for both the County Executive (CE) and County Assembly (CA).

EACC delegation led by Commissioner John Ogalo (third left,) Director Preventive Services Vincent Okong’o (second left) and Deputy Head Lower Eastern Region Tom Amoro when they paid a courtesy call on Makueni County Governor Mutula Kilonzo Junior (centre). On the right are senior county officials.

Findings in the CE CRA highlighted a myriad of issues that needed fixing to seal loopholes that provide conducive environment for corruption to thrive.  As regards operating environment, the CE had not developed some governance instruments such as policies and manuals. This, the report said, creates room for discretion which may lead to irregularities in management of CE operations and recommended that relevant policies, manuals and guidelines in all functional areas be developed and operationalized.

The CE did not also have a well-structured mechanism for reporting and processing both internal and external complaints. Thus it was difficult to identify and deal with matters including those relating to corruption and unethical conduct, just to mention a few.

On financial management front, the report recommended strengthening of the management of Tetheka revolving fund to enhance loan repayment and debt collection in line with Section 116 of the Public Finance Management (PFM) Act, 2012. The fund’s statements for financial year (FY) 2016/17 and 2017/18 had shown that while 57.9% of the amount disbursed was recovered, 17% was written off.

The report also showed that the Executive had at times used imprest facility for implementation of projects and activities which should be procured through tender or quotations. This, Mr. Okong’o said, is a loophole that may lead to misappropriation of funds.

The CE also failed to maintain a comprehensive fixed asset register, which could lead to pilferage of county assets. In the same breath, some of the assets ownership documents were registered under the names of defunct local authorities which could easily lead to theft and misrepresentation in financial statements.

There had also been unexplained figures in the FY2016/2017 and 2017/2018 respectively in the cash-flow statement which is a loophole for concealing misappropriated funds and is contrary to the requirement of disclosure in the financial statement.

As far as supply chain management goes, the report showed instances where quotations were issued to service providers who are not in the prequalified list, a fertile ground for bid rigging, bias, conflict of interest and loss of funds through non-competitive engagement of suppliers to which the report recommended strict adherence to Regulation 59(2)(b) of Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Regulations (PPADR 2006).

There were also instances when some procurement requisitions were sent out without all the requisite approvals. The CE also lacked disposal plan for obsolete items.

Issues were also flagged in project management, human resource (HR) management and records management. For the former, for instance, some of the completed and handed over projects were dilapidated within three years.

For HR, some officers had served in acting capacity for durations longer than specified in the county’s own HR policies and procedure manuals of 2017. The CE did not have designated registries in the departments where mails could be received and dispatched to officers for action. This practice leads to discretion in management of correspondences and may create delays in delivery of services to the public.

The report’s findings in the County Assembly were more, or less the same as those in the County Executive save for unique functions like committee sittings where the report revealed instances where members attended committee meetings surpassing the Salaries and Remunerations Commission ceiling.

The CRA report recommended mitigation interventions in every weakness that it identified in the county. While it may not have been exhaustive given the short period within which it was undertaken, Mr. Okong’o called on both the County Executive and Assembly to use it to “map out more inherent corruption risks in other areas that may affect the service delivery and put in place appropriate mitigation measures.”

On his part, the Governor for Makueni County embraced the findings of the report and promised to act on every of the recommendations therein. He also asked the EACC to carry out a current systems audit in the county so that they get to know where they currently stand in regards to the issues raised in the 2019 report and how to move forward

The CRA was conducted in line with section 11 (1) (h) and (i) and section 13 (b) of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Act, 2011 which empowers the Commission to advise on its own initiative any person on any matter within its functions; monitor the practices and procedures of public bodies to detect corrupt practices and to secure the revision of methods of work or procedures that may be conducive to corrupt practices; and undertake preventive measures against unethical and corrupt conduct.

Commissioner Ogalo said the consultative meeting provided the EACC and the County Government of Makueni with a good opportunity to agree on how the county government could move forward with implementation of the recommendations of the CRA on the two key institutions of the county. He commended the proactive approach of the Makueni County Government to the fight against corruption adding that it was bound to afford the new county government a head start in addressing corruption risks and strengthening systems at the earliest opportunity.

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