ISIOLO COUNTY GOVERNMENT ON THE BRINK PRECIPICE

PART I

By Salad Malicha 

PREAMBLE

Isiolo, Kenya. Until a decade ago, few ventured beyond Isiolo without armed police escort. A dusty frontier garrison town in central Kenya, it was the gateway into the badlands of Kenya’s former Northern Frontier District.

In the last two decades, as Kenya’s economy and politics have liberalised, Isiolo has transformed into a vibrant commercial hub owing much to its strategic location. It straddles the recently upgraded (paved) Pan-Africa highway that links the Horn (especially Ethiopia’s huge and relatively untapped markets) to central Kenya and beyond to Central and Southern Africa.

Isiolo is also an important node of Kenya’s LAPSSET (Lamu Port, South Sudan and Ethiopia) planned infrastructure project. This seeks to develop a new “Northern” transport corridor between Kenya and Uganda and to better integrate Ethiopia and South Sudan into East Africa, and will include a new port being built near Lamu, oil pipelines and a refinery.

LAPSETT’s prospects have declined with the global price of oil, the rising terrorist threat in the North East, South Sudan’s civil war, and with Uganda now looking at an alternative pipeline route via Tanzania. Isiolo, however, will continue to play a central role in Kenya’s ambition to exploit its vast northern rangelands. 6,500 acres have been set aside for a new “Isiolo Resort City”, construction for a large dam on the Ewaso Nyiro River to serve it is already underway; a new airport and a modern abattoir to process 400 cattle daily from the region’s large livestock population are also planned. Though, Isiolo people have been failed miserably by the current regime through persistent pillage of public resources.

Yet Isiolo is one of a number of 47 new counties that face risks of conflict ahead of and during the 2017 polls. Not only has the national problem of an ethnic winner-takes-all politics devolved to the counties’ internal electoral competition, but local actors are making exclusive claims over potentially lucrative resources and infrastructure that fall in their boundaries, increasing conflict over internal administrative borders – which are often badly demarcated and therefore disputed. While these conflicts are found throughout Kenya, they have particularly affected counties in the pastoral areas of Northern and Southern Kenya, including the Rift Valley.

Bribe index paid to County staffs for jobs and tenders

Devolving authority to county government in 2013 was one of the principal innovations of the 2010 constitution, and a response to the 2007-2008 post-election violence. The goal was to enhance local communities’ participation in development with the expectation that it would reduce competition over national resources, which had often taken on ethnic overtones and fuelled violence, especially at election time. It was also hoped county government would enable marginalised regions to catch up with the more developed areas, again addressing and reducing historic regional grievances.
Undoubtedly there has been a surge in county-based development especially in infrastructure, but these gains and devolved funds that finance them are connected to a rise in localised conflicts and insecurity in three aspects:

One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken for a ride. Once you give a charlatan like the current Isiolo Governor power over you, he will mess up with the entire moral, social and economic fabric of the society.

Methinks, it is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. Currently, Doyo‘s administration has a high affinity to loot public resources meant to help the downtrodden and hoi polloi’s in the society.

The heightened stakes of county power, controlled by the governor and other elected officers, have often reproduced national ethnic competition at county level. Secondly, the creation of new minorities within counties including in urban settings is generating new tensions, particularly where their economic activities are now seen as outsider competition by the new county elites and thirdly inter-county competition is growing over the ownership and control of big national or regional development projects where they traverse county boundaries, making these borders prone to violent dispute and rendering residents belonging to minorities from rival counties vulnerable to reprisals.

While Isiolo’s potential should bring development dividends – 63 per cent of its population lives below the poverty line – its prospects are already blighted by a sharp rise in communal conflict. This is partly because control of national-regional development projects is contested by the new county elite as exclusively “theirs”.

The Isiolo county population (estimated at over 150,000) is diverse. Most are herders from tribes like the Boran, Somali, Samburu and Turkana in the northern “rangelands” (desert in the eyes of many), but a minority are farmers, because the county straddles the line of “sown” lands of the central highlands, settled by Meru agriculturalists and traders.
While this crossroads of livelihoods brings exchange and a dynamic local economy, it has also driven conflict: in the 1990s most of the ethnic violence was between the Boran and Somali, but since then ethnic conflict has diversified and evolved.

Because of the way Kenya’s new counties were often hastily drawn up (some see deliberate ethnic “gerrymandering”), formerly cosmopolitan regional capitals have become administrative centres for smaller counties dominated by one or two ethnic groups, and smaller communities neighbouring counties or further afield living in these cities have become “minorities”. In Isiolo’s case, Meru communities are now a minority, dominant in trade and in some urban wards, but frozen out of the big county executive seats, like those for the Governor, Senators and Members of the National Assembly. They are caught up in the increasingly bitter and violent conflict over the poorly-defined border between Isiolo and Meru counties.

The Isiolo-Meru tension is just one example of inter-county disputes that now affect more than half the counties, with growing calls for a new county border demarcation exercise. The Commission on Administrative Justice (a statutory body to address administrative and governance disputes) has called for the creation of a County Boundaries Commission, with a mandate to conduct a new survey and clearly mark out borders with visible markers. However, any new commissions or actions are unlikely to have an impact on contested boundaries before the 2017 elections.

Inaction is not an option since contested boundaries and the ethnic interests competing over them will aggravate hotly disputed county elections in 2017. The counties and the national government need to consider a sequence of high-impact policy interventions to mitigate the risk of county-based conflict, now and in the run-up to 2017. These could include:

  1. a moratorium on all land sales in disputed country border areas, pending the outcome of a credible adjudication of contested lands and county border demarcation (properly marked with high-visibility markers);
  2. a clear national government policy statement that borders will be reviewed after the 2017 polls by an independent technical commission and its decisions will be final and binding. (Source-International Crisis Group)

 

OPTIONS FOR ISIOLO COUNTY AS MERU COUNTY DEMANDS BORDER AS PER 1992 DISTRICTS AND PROVINCES ACT- My suggestions.

Following Isiolo and Meru leaders meeting, Meru County and its leadership are demanding border demarcation as per the 1992 Districts and Provinces Act. The Act transfer big chunk of land to Meru County. What options do we have for Isiolo? The Isiolo leaders may consider the following:1. Declare the dispute with Meru County officially in all the relevant offices such as Office of the President, Summit of National and County Government, Council of Governors, IEBC, National Land Commission, NCIS, relevant Parliamentary Committees for both National Assembly and Senate etc. This should be done by a competent team of lawyers.2. Urgently form a committee that will work with lawyers and follow up on this matter conclusively. Special participation is expected for the Former MPs in whose reign the District and Provinces Act was passed 26th June, 1992. As part of the institutional memory, we need their side of the story to understand what transpired in parliament. This will assist the lawyers. Other members of the committee need to be carefully selected to include those leaders, elders, and youth who were part of community initiative for similar purpose prior to 2013.3. While the laws are not cast on stone, especially taking into account sensitivity tribal grievances, this can only be actualized with united and focused leadership. It requires sustained campaign rather than a “touch” and “go” strategy.4. Leaders and lawyers should be cognizant of the best principles and practice on border disputes resolution takes into consideration a number of issues rather than transferring a line on the map to the ground. When disputes are declared, history, geography, socio-cultural, politics, economy and views of the community to various boundary review commission will neatly come into play.5. The leaders and lawyers should link the current disputes as part of historical injustice where Meru leaders took advantage of the Shifta to claim land belonging to Isiolo. And that this systematic campaign has continued unabated due to misuse by Meru of their position in national power matrix including in the institutions dealing with land.6. Leaders and lawyers should be in a position to highlight the protection of the rights of the minority and indigenous community by the Constitution of Kenya.

7. The community may demand for the determination of territorial loss to Meru County as a result of declaration of emergency, administrative restrictions by the NEP and Contiguous District Regulations of 1966. This evaluation can be based on the boundary as at 1963 and consequent amendments ably moved by the late, Adan Wako Bonaya, the former MP for Isiolo South Constituency on 31st October, 1970 and the illegally amended Bill (No. 5 OF 1992) tabled by the then Minister for Lands Mr. Jackson Angaine on 26th June, 1992 compared to the current status.

8. Leaders and Lawyers should be in a position to show the illegitimate transfer as well as arbitrary establishment of government institutions such as police posts and schools in disputed border areas by Meru County and leaders to legitimize their claim.

9. Lawyers to advise on the best way forward.

10. As an interim measures, Isiolo County leaders should openly declare that the current conflict is in flagrant violation of the Nanyuki Accord between Isiolo and Meru Counties leaders, which declared moratorium on any border activities that could ignite conflict.

11. The lawyers and Isiolo leaders should pursue a tripartite agreement with Meru County and the National Government on the position, deployment, composition, mandate and activities of the security forces or any other activities along the Isiolo and Meru Counties. This will allay a widespread concern among the local people about the partiality of the security forces deployed along the border as well as expansion activities along the borders.
12. The leaders and the legal team should point out that anything short of the tripartite agreement of Isiolo, Meru and National Governments will reinforce the widespread feeling that security forces along the Isiolo and Meru borders are more of an occupation force than a protection force. And that the security forces along Meru – Isiolo border are deployed to abet the expansionist design of Meru County and its leadership.

13. The current Members of Parliament to sponsor an amendment motion to the Revised Districts & Provinces Act, 1992.

 

 

KEY AUDIT QUERIES  & FINDINGS ON ISIOLO COUNTY GOVERNMENT -2013/2014-(Source-Auditor General’s Report)

 

1.0 Budgetary Control and Performance

 

During the year 2013/2014, the County Executive had an approved budget of Kshs.2.78 billion comprised of Kshs.1.74 billion for recurrent and Kshs.1.04 billion for development.
The annual revenue for the County Government was projected at Kshs.2.78 billion comprising of Kshs.2.4 billion from the national equitable share, Kshs.360 million from local revenue sources and Kshs.5.9 million as balance brought forward from the previous year 2012/2013. Records made available for audit indicated that the County received Kshs.2.2 billion as the national equitable share and collected Kshs.125 million from local sources. The County Executive spent Kshs.1.784 Billion.
>The under absorption of funds allocated and under performance in local revenue collection was not explained.

2.0 Internal Control Systems

>The finance department had only seven officers, a number that was considered inadequate considering that they serve both the Executive and the County Assembly.
Further, there is no internal audit department in place. In addition, the following weaknesses were noted in the processing of payments:-

a) Payment vouchers were not numbered
b) The payment vouchers did not have a vote book certificate although they were recorded in the IFMIS system
c) Payment vouchers were not examined

 

3.0 Foreign Travelling and Accommodation Allowances

 

Ø  The County Executive had budgeted to spend Kshs.13, 797,605 on foreign travels but spent Kshs.12, 682,150. This resulted to an under expenditure of Kshs.1, 115,455 or (8%) of the budgeted amount.

Ø  Either, no documents were produced for audit to show the countries visited, nature of the visits and the number of officers involved.

Ø  In the circumstances, the propriety of the expenditure could not be confirmed.

Ø

4.0 Unaccounted for Consultancy Services Expenditure

ü  The County Executive incurred an expenditure of Kshs.2, 805,500 on 9 April 2014 in respect of legal fees paid to a legal firm.

ü  However, the payment voucher, legal fee notes and procurement documents were not made available for audit review.

ü  It was, therefore, not possible to ascertain whether any legal services were provided by the firm.

ü

5.0 Seminar /Workshops and Training Sponsorship

v  The County Executive paid tuition fees for six officers totaling Kshs.1, 208,800 without complying with the relevant regulations that govern sponsorship.

v  Further, there was no training policy or committee that would have established the training needs of the employees of the County Government.

v  Under the circumstances, it was not possible to ascertain the propriety of the training expenditure of Kshs.1, 208,800 as at 30 June 2014.

v

6.0 Revenue

 

6.1 Under collection of Revenue

 

The County Government had targeted to raise Kshs.360, 000,000 from local sources in the financial year 2013/2014. However, only Kshs.125 million which was 31.3 per cent of the annual local revenue target was realized. The failure to meet the set target was attributed to reduced tourist numbers leading to a collection of Kshs.84, 772,849 from the parks against a budget of Kshs.210, 000,000.
>No efforts appear to have been made to enhance local revenue collection.

 

6.2 Un-receipted / Unbanked Game Fees Revenue

As previously reported during the special audit covering the period between March 2013 and June 2013, the Kenya Association of Tours Operators(KATO) was appointed as selling agents for Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves entry tickets through a contract signed with the defunct County Council of Isiolo in February,1995. KATO was to stock tickets, vet the tours operators to whom tickets were sold; submit to the Council an analysis of ticket sales on a weekly basis. KATO was to be paid a commission at the rate of four (4) percent of the face value of all the tickets.
The agreement which was valid for twenty four (24) months up to 2 February, 1997 has never been renewed.
>But KATO has continued to collect the park revenue ever since without any legal contract.
>Further, during the period under review, KATO retained Kshs.2,763,327 being 4% of the collected revenue Kshs.66,319,853 as the commission

>This resulted to an under banking and under reporting of County Government Revenue and Expenditure by Kshs.2, 763,327.21. KATO are required to remit all the revenue collected and be paid their commission and not to retain it.


6.3 Failure to recognize Payroll Processing Revenue

 

>The County Executive charged payroll processing fee to various banks for check off deductions but these charges were not receipted as county revenue.

>During the period under audit, Kshs.39,744 had been deducted. Although the payroll processing fee had been recognized as revenue as from 1 April to 30 June 2014, the Kshs.39,744 collected earlier had not been receipted as at the time of audit.

>No explanation was given for failure to recognize the fees as revenue.


6.4 Unremitted liquor licensing Fees

 

Examination of receipt books and records maintained at the Isiolo Deputy County Commissioner’s office revealed that liquor licensing revenue amounting to Kshs.2,361,000 was collected from businesses operating within Isiolo County between July 2013 and June 2014.

>However, the amount was remitted directly to NACADA as revenue collected in respect of licensing and implementing the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act, 2010.

>The licenses were issued by the National Government instead of the County Government contrary to the Constitution as this is a devolved function as the per Section 4(c) Part 2 of the Fourth Schedule.


6.5 Long Outstanding Un-surrendered Receipt Books

Examination of Counterfoil

>Receipts Book Registers (CRB’s) made available for audit revealed that receipt books with a value of Kshs.1,951,000 issued to revenue collectors had not been surrendered as at 30 June 2014.

>It was also noted that the County continued using the receipt books printed by the defunct Isiolo County Council some of which were printed as far back as April, 2006.


6.6 Cost Sharing Revenue

 

>During the year under review, the County Executive of Isiolo had not taken over the collection of the cost sharing revenue at the Isiolo District Hospital.

>Revenue totaling Kshs.25,943,982 was collected at the Hospital and spent through the cost sharing system at the District Treasury.

>Since Health is a devolved function, all revenue collected at the hospital should be banked into the County Revenue Fund Account.


6.7 Uncollected Revenue

 

>Examination of credit sales register at the Isiolo District Hospital disclosed that the hospital credit sales were not collected promptly leading to revenue under collections which amounted to Kshs.593,805 as at 30 June 2014.

>No explanations have been provided for this anomaly.

7.0 Cash and Bank Balances

 

The County Executive operated five bank accounts; one maintained at the Kenya Commercial Bank, one at the Consolidated Bank, Isiolo branch and three others at the Central Bank of Kenya.
>No monthly reconciliation statements were prepared for the three accounts maintained at the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK).
>No explanation was given for failure to prepare reconciliation statements for the three accounts maintained at the CBK.

8.0 Non Establishment of Emergency Fund

 

>During the year under review, the County Government did not create an Emergency Fund as required by the Public Finance Management Act, 2012. The purpose of an Emergency Fund is to enable payments of urgent and unforeseen expenditure which there is no specific provision in the current budget.


9.0 Human Resources


9.1 Non-Reimbursement of Salaries paid by the National Government.

>The County Executive was required to re-imburse from its allocated funds, salaries for 735 officers’ in the devolved functions paid by the National Government. Although the National Treasury circular ref: CONF/MOF.51/08`C’/(72) dated 4 April 2014 indicated the balance due as Kshs.251,659,813 the list made available for audit by the County Treasury revealed an outstanding reimbursement of Kshs.362,501,029, as at 30 June 2014, thereby creating a reconciled difference of Kshs.110,841,215 between the amount demanded by the National Treasury and the amount calculated by the County Government.
>Further, the County Executive only made one payment dated 22 April 2014 of Kshs.121,315,311 which had not been acknowledged by the recipient ministries.


9.2 Non Remittance of Staff Deductions to the National Government

 

During the period between January and June 2014, the Isiolo County Executive deducted rent totaling Kshs.849,325 from officers occupying Government houses.
>There was no evidence that the National Government had surrendered its buildings or its revenue to the County Government of Isiolo to justify the current situation.
>The amounts deducted were not remitted to the National Government or receipted as part of the County Government revenue and therefore the accountability of the funds could not be ascertained.


9.3 Operations without an Approved Staff Establishment

The County Executive recruited County Chief Officers as required by the County Government Act, 2012 and as per the approved budget.
>However, the County Executive did not prepare or approve its personnel establishment and hence managed its human resource without an approved establishment.
>Consequently, the adequacy, appropriateness, existence and the necessity to fill the vacancies or the possibility of staff progression could not be ascertained.


9.4 Inappropriate Management of Personnel Records

 

>Audit of the County human resource records revealed that the County Executive had not established a personnel registry or opened personal files for all seconded staff.
>All personnel records both open and confidential were kept in an open office with unlimited access by any staff. Further, there was no copy of the Last pay Certificates for employees who were seconded and are in the County Executive payroll.


9.5 Unpaid and Unbudgeted for Staff Salaries

Following the implementation of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that was effected on 1 September 2012 by the defunct County Council, there arose salary arrears and unremitted pension deductions that could not be paid as a result of not being budgeted for during the financial year 2012/2013.
>The staff salary arrears and pension deductions outstanding schedule made available for audit review revealed that the Isiolo County Government was yet to pay salaries arrears amounting to Kshs.50,211,728.


9.6 Irregular Payment of Locum Allowances

>Examination of expenditure incurred by Isiolo District Hospital revealed that an amount totaling Kshs.770,000 was paid to various staff in form of Locum allowances to health workers for working overtime without an approval of the County Executive or the hospital management committee.

9.7 Doubtful Appointment

>Records held in the human resource department indicated that one officer, the County Economic Advisor was formerly employed by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), before his current appointment.

>However, no records were maintained to show whether he resigned as an employee of the TSC upon his appointment as an Economic Advisor.


10.0 IT Environment

 

The County Executive of Isiolo adopted the use of IFMIS and GPAY in November 2013 and the earlier manual transactions were journalized in the IFMIS system.

>However, it was observed that direct banking from KATO was not captured in the LAIFOM system creating differences between collections in the LAIFOM system and banking.

>In addition, there was no evidence of back up of all the transactions in IT systems, LAIFOM, GPAY, IFMIS or IPPD.

 


11.0 Non-Current Assets

 

>The County Executive did not maintain a fixed assets register. They still rely on the fixed asset register that was used by the defunct Isiolo County Council. The value of the fixed assets of the defunct local authority as at 28 February 2013 amounted to Kshs.14,155,106,914 as per the audited accounts.

>Further, it was observed that assets acquired by the County Executive valued at Kshs.220,322,700 had not been recorded in the fixed assets register.


12.0 Creditors and Payables

 

>The County Executive did not maintain any record of creditors such as creditor’s ledger or register.

>Further, as previously reported, the statement of assets and liabilities as at 28 February 2013 prepared by the defunct Isiolo County Council reflected creditors totaling Kshs.165,878,929. However, as at 30 June 2013, the creditor’s balances had increased to Kshs.195,229,710 as per schedule made available for audit.


13.0 Non Establishment of Audit Committee

 

>The County Executive did not establish an internal audit committee as required by the Public Finance Management Act, 2012. The audit committee would have performed various roles which include;
>Understanding and assessing the overall risks the County is facing.
>Reviewing the adequacy of internal controls that management has put in place regarding financial control, accounting systems and reporting.
>Reviewing the entity’s compliance with all relevant legislation and statutory requirements.

 

14.0 Failure to take Over Assets and Liabilities of the Defunct County Council

 

>As previously reported, during the special audit covering the period between March 2013 and June 2013, the County Government of Isiolo had not officially taken over the assets and liabilities of the defunct County Council of Isiolo as at the time of audit. The value of the assets and liabilities of the defunct local authority as at 28 February 2013 amounted to Kshs.14,155,106,914.00 and Kshs.151,880,458.00 respectively as per the audited accounts.

>Failure to take over the assets and liabilities was contrary to instructions issued by the former Ministry of Local of Government vide circular No. MLG/1333/TY/52 of 18 February, 2013.


15.0 Debtors

 

The receivables/ debtors balances as at 30 June 2014 were Kshs.38,804,166 as per LAIFOM schedule made available for audit review. The amount was in respect of outstanding plot rates and rent.
It was however observed that:-

>The County Executive did not age its debtors during the year under review.
>There were no demand notes issued to debtors.
>The County Executive does not have a policy for debtors.


16.0 Un-vouched Expenditure

 

>Expenditure totaling Kshs.166,046,039 incurred by the County Executive was not examined as the records relating to the expenditure were collected by the Ethics and Anti- Corruption Commission for investigations on 20 and 21 August 2014 and 18 and 26 September 2014.

>The records had not been returned as at the time of audit in February 2014. It was however not explained why copies were not retained for record purposes.

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Author: Whispers from the North

Extrovert, outgoing, a knack for international relations,foreign policy, governance, human rights and diplomacy. Nonetheless,I live my life and you live yours.I am not in this world to live up to your expectations.You are not in this world to live up to mine.You are you and i am me.if by chance we find each other, it is beautiful.

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