The Auditor-General has turned his guns on the Judiciary after an extensive audit exercise requested by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) revealed that over Kshs. 0.6 Billion shilling have been lost. The eighty page report was prepared by forensic auditors from the office of the Auditor General, Auditors from the office of the Internal Auditor General and officers from the Public Procurement Oversight Authority.
The report indicates that the expertise audit team encountered frustrations while carrying out their mandate from the Judiciary officials as Judicial Service Commission (JSC) denied or limited the team access to critical information and minutes of meetings awarding various tenders.
This report revealed massive irregularities, override of stipulated controls, overstepping of mandates and breach of procurement laws and regulations. The investigations established that financial transactions and operations at the Judiciary were not in accordance with the law and Government Financial Regulations and Procedures. Further, the report shows that there was direct influence and interference from the JSC whose chairperson is non-other than Chief Justice David Maraga, on financial operations at the judiciary.
For the period in review, the judiciary had a recurrent expenditure of Kshs 18.9 billion and an addition of Kshs 4.1 billion for construction, purchase and refurbishment of Buildings. During the period under review, Judiciary had invited bids for premises for lease and entered into four (4) lease agreement whose total rent payable per year amounted to Kshs. 156,466,729 per year for six years.
At Elgon Place for example, the premise was meant for occupation by Court of Appeal judges but is yet to be occupied since 1st April 2013. Judiciary has therefore paid expenditure amounting to Kshs. 70,147,605 for premises that have remained unoccupied thus a nugatory expenditure. Interestingly, the said premises are under use by another tenant; a company linked to one of the Supreme Court Judges. Investigators further found that Rahimtulla Tower premises is only 50% occupied despite the judiciary paying Kshs. 32,400,000 per year.
The probe further established that the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in its entirety sanctioned for the purchase of a fully furnished residential property for the Chief Justice David Maraga at Kshs. 0.31 billion shillings. The property was however not valued by a Government or professional valuer as required by the law, thus creating loopholes. The actual cost couldn’t be ascertained. The report details instances in Mombasa, Narok, Lodwar and Embu, where questions arose after more than Sh621 million was spent to construct or refurbish court buildings.
The report says that as much as the Judiciary endeavoured to take justice closer to the people by putting up court buildings, the process was not smooth and money was wasted and the original goal not accomplished. In Mombasa, the Judiciary awarded Damtax Enterprises a contract in August 2014 to refurbish the building that houses the court. Later that month, the contractor wrote to the Judiciary, saying that the contracted amount of Ksh 29 million was wrong, and should actually have been Ksh 54.7 million, going by the right bill of quantities. No explanation was given on how an error of that magnitude could have occurred.
Auditors also questioned why the contractor was allowed to get on site three months after the contract was signed, contrary to the stipulated period of 21 days. Six months after the job started, the county government complained that the contractor was performing poorly. Auditors confirmed that the works were, indeed, of poor quality. The contractor would in September 2015 ask for an extension of the contract, but by the time auditors went there in November 2016, he was still refurbishing the building. The Judiciary did not explain the increase in the contract’s cost.
Because of all these issues, Auditor-General Edward Ouko reported, he could not confirm whether there was value for money in the projects. In Narok for example, a contractor was given a job to construct the buildings at a cost of Kshs. 24.9 million in August 2007. It was to be done in a year, but the contractor abandoned the site and the Kshs 24.9 million is considered lost. A new tender was awarded in September 2015 at a cost Kshs 65.1 million, but when auditors went there, no work was ongoing. A separate contract to drill a borehole at a cost of Kshs 6.5 million was yet to be completed.
“In the circumstances, the propriety and value-for-money of the expenditure of Kshs 90.2 million incurred on refurbishment of Narok Law Courts could not be confirmed,” the Auditor General reported. In Lodwar, the Judiciary had planned to spend Kshs 814.9 million on the court building from September 2013 to April 2015. But the job stalled at 27 percent, with Kshs 124.5 million paid, and the Judiciary could not explain to the auditors how the job was awarded and measures taken against the contractor for failure to meet contractual obligations.
A similar project in Embu also ran into trouble. Auditors questioned the payment of the first Kshs 13 million of the Kshs 229.3 million contract, the value of some Kshs 8 million spent on a generator and Kshs 13.5 million paid for lifts that were yet to be delivered 11 months after they were bought. The Judiciary had also not secured a title deed for the land.
The report which shall be scrutinized by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee chaired by Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wah, has given various recommendations to the Judicial Service Commission that shall seek to recover the hundreds of millions stolen and have those culpable reprimanded.