Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko spent Sh4.09 million from the county government coffers to hire 33 police officers to provide him with round-the-clock security during a three-week trip to Mombasa in 2018, it has emerged.
According to the Auditor General’s report for the 2018-2019 financial year, the flamboyant former governor hired the police officers to guard him during his stay in Mombasa between July 22, 2018, and August 12, 2018.
In the report, the Auditor General Nancy Gathungu notes that an examination of payment documents revealed that the amount of Sh4.09 million was paid as allowances to the 33 police officers, who were guarding the governor during his 22-day stay at an undisclosed location in the port city.
Gathungu noted that the governor did not disclose the purpose of the journey or who authorized the hiring of the officers.
“No documents were available in support of the payment except an unsigned schedule.
In addition, the purpose of the journey and authorization for use of 33 police officers was not explained,” the report reads.
Known for his glitzy lifestyle, flashy clothes, and expensive jewelry, Gideon Mbuvi Kioko earned the nickname Sonko – Swahili slang for a rich person – after publicly distributing cash to his supporters in Nairobi’s slums.
Ordinarily, a governor is entitled to no more than five security officers including personal bodyguards and those manning his residence.
The auditors have also questioned large payments made as fees totaling to Sh595 million to various firms, which offered legal services to the county during Sonko’s tenure.
“Management did not avail documents such as nature of disputes, approval for procurement of professional services records, the record of services rendered and contracts for audit review,” the audit says, sparking concerns the money could have ended in private pockets.
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) is currently investigating suspect expenditures made as legal fees by the Nairobi County government to tens of law firms that allegedly offered services to the Nairobi county government during Sonko’s tenure.
The EACC has since written to City Hall to explain payouts amounting to more than Sh500 million made to 26 law firms between 2013 and 2020.
In a letter addressed to the Nairobi County Secretary, the EACC demanded details and supporting documents for payments made to law firms; some associated with prominent politicians and lawyers.
According to the commission, the payments are considered suspect and made without regard to due process.
The commission wants to establish the specific case files handled by the law firms including details of the legal instructions.
The Auditor-General also questioned the whereabouts of some Sh66.97 million that was generated from approval of development plans as part of own generated revenue.
According to the Auditor, during the year under review, examinations of records maintained by the Building plans department revealed that it approved 2,582 building plans with an estimated cost of Sh159 million and generated revenue amounting to Sh950 million.
“However, the finance department records reflected revenue generated from development plan approvals amounting to Sh1 billion resulting in an unexplained difference of Sh66.9 million,” the report says.
The Auditor-General also fingered Sonko’s administration for making irregular withdrawals amounting to Sh500 million and often overpaid contractors.
The audit report reveals that the county government withdrew Sh206.38 million and Sh3 million from Supreme Business and Current Accounts at Equity Bank and Nairobi City County Trust Account at KCB Bank respectively.
The cash was withdrawn for unspecified payments which, according to the report, were not supported by the appropriate authority, documentation, and pre-numbered payment vouchers.
During the same financial year, the county government made withdrawals amounting to Sh249.79 million from Co-Operative Bank but no supporting documents were provided.
In addition, the county executive’s current account held at KCB bank was overdrawn by Sh3.7 million for the year ended June 30, 2018, the report states.
“The same account was overdrawn by Sh542,465 as at June 30, 2019. No documentary evidence has been available for audit review to confirm prior approval of the overdraft by the County Treasury or Board of the County Government as required under section 119 (4) of the Public Finance Management Act, 2012.
According to the report, City Hall operated 41 bank accounts, but during the audit, it did not disclose two accounts containing Sh7.98 million.
Further, examination of records indicates that the county executive had operated bank accounts currently referred to as either closed or dormant at various commercial banks.
The county did not avail the supporting documents to confirm the status of the accounts.
Sonko’s administration is also on the spot for allegedly issuing to its staff multiple imprests amounting to Sh4.5 million that are yet to be surrendered to date.
“This is in contrast to section 93(4) of the Public Finance Management (County Governments) regulations, 2015 which requires accounting officers to ensure applicants have no outstanding imprests,” the report says.
In addition, the Auditor General queried whether some Sh8.26 million paid out to the 240 casuals, artisans, and supervisors for flood mitigation reached the intended persons.
There was no approved list of beneficiaries, evidence of recruitment of the lot, daily attendance register, and summary of calculated amounts paid to each worker was not available, notes the Auditor General.
“Further, no indication of work done in terms of opening up and maintaining drains at sub-county levels as stated in the request to incur expenditure was provided,” Gathungu said.
Gathungu revealed that Sonko’s administration had not settled pending bills amounting to Sh70.65 billion as at June 30, 2020. There was no explanation for the accumulated debt.
Interestingly, a team appointed by Sonko to finalize the verification of the pending bills was paid above the Salaries and Remuneration Commission’s authorized rate.
The team was paid Sh16.48 million against the authorized payments of Sh5.64 million.
The auditor noted that the county is yet to clear pending statutory deduction amounting to Sh39.87 million that has accumulated for a long time contrary to the law.
The scathing report brings to the fore the financial rot at City Hall and puts the former governor on the spot over one year after he was impeached for gross violation of the constitution, abuse of office, and gross misconduct.
It shows that Sonko’s administration operated ‘secret’ bank accounts, accumulated pending bills amounting to Sh70.65 billion, and unremitted statutory deductions totaling Sh39 million.
The city’s development projects worth Sh2.92 billion stalled in just one year.
Gathungu rendered an adverse opinion, implying that the county’s financial statements were misrepresented, misstated, and did not accurately reflect the county’s financial health.
The year under review was Sonko’s full financial year in charge of City Hall following his election on August 8, 2017, to succeed Evans Kidero.
The report shows Nairobi, despite being a cosmopolitan county, 46 percent, 5,496 of the 11,926, of City Hall employees are from one ethnic community.