Homa Bay Governor Cyprian Awiti was at pains on Thursday explaining how hundreds of millions of shillings went missing from the public coffers without proper documentation.
Awiti, who appeared before the Senate Committee on County Public Accounts and Investment (CPAIC), also had a hard time explaining why there was a significant decline in revenue collection between 2014 and 2018.
The Moses Kajwang-led committee wondered why revenue collection in Homa Bay had reduced from Ksh240 million in the 2014/2015 financial year to Ksh101 million in the 2017/2018 financial year.
In response, Awiti said: “I can defend myself on that. The economy is not doing good everywhere, and in Homa Bay, the fish business has gone down; my people are no longer finding markets for their harvest.
“Second, 2017 was an election year, and the boda boda guys were very rowdy. I, as a result, could not ask them for money.
“Third, the population in Homa Bay has gone up, and poor people tend to produce more children.
“Fourth, Nyanza people, especially those from Homa Bay, are nagging. They told me they won’t pay anything in 2018. I could not force them. Nyanza people are not like Kenyans from other counties,” said the governor in a response that baffled the senators.
During the interrogation, it emerged that Awiti has not employed staff — formally — to collect revenue from businesspeople in Homa Bay.
According to the senators, the county chief has employed Form Four leavers to collect revenue.
“It is high time we declare you incompetent, Mr Governor,” said committee member Paul Kibiru, whose sentiments were echoed by the chairperson, Kajwang.
“He does not [even] bank the revenue collected,” said Senator Kajwang, adding: “He has employed tax collectors who earn 10 per cent of the collected revenue.”
In his defense, Awiti said: “I look for askaris to collect the money. If they do not meet the targets set, I decline to retain them. However, I will stop doing that.”
The response did little to remedy the then-boiling disappointment that was already evident on Kajwang’s face.
“It seems that Homa Bay County is still operating in the stone age. Tax collectors in the county are receiving money in baskets, and are walking around carrying rungus to scare taxpayers,” said Kajwang.
Senator Ledama Olekina chimed in, saying: “That is illegal and wrong.”
The CPAIC chairperson, Kajwang, thereafter, gave the governor a one-week ultimatum to explain alleged misappropriation of hundreds of millions of shillings belonging to the county.
“I am giving you seven days to explain how you used Ksh188 million on fuel and lubricants in 2017/2018 fiscal year. That translates to 1, 000 per cent increase from the previous year. You have also spent Ksh251 million that is not supported by any documents. You will also have to explain that,” said Kajwang.
Wrapping up the session, Kajwang joked: “I am hoping that we have not subjected you to any injuries, whatsoever, governor.”
“I came injured. I am now nursing more injuries,” replied Awiti.
Earlier during the interrogation, Awiti tabled CPAIC a letter written in German explaining why he stayed out of office for long.
According to Awiti, the letter revealed that he was in Germany for nearly two months seeking treatment over eyesight problems.
Committee members, who could not understand what was written in the document, were visibly confused.
“I have been unwell. I cannot even read well now. I was recently in Germany and India for treatment. My eyes are really troubling me,” said the governor.
The county chief said he is yet to have concrete grasp of county spending, given “I was away most of the time”.
The CPAIC is made up of Senators: Kajwang’ Moses Otieno (chairperson), Linturi Franklin Mithika (vice chairperson) and seven other members, including: Adan Dullo Fatuma, Kimani Wamatangi Paul, Kibiru Charles Reubenson, Omanga Millicent, Mwinyi Haji Mohamed, Olekina Ledama and Prof. Ongeri Samson Kegengo.