The Controller of Budget (CoB) Margaret Nyakang’o has dealt a severe blow to Nairobi governor Johnson Sakaja and his deputy Njororge Muchiri after she declined to approve Sh1.5billion expenditure requisitions they made to pay legal fees and development expenditure made without providing proper supportive documents.
The development comes days after The Informer Media Group exposed a brewing whiff of scandal at over plans to effect payments amounting to Sh2billion controversially selected 19 law firms as pending bills without proper documentation.
Further, City Hall honchos made an additional clearance request of Sh379million categorised as development expenditure of building and construction supplies claimed to be ‘air supply’.
“The schedule of 19 firms to be paid does not include the invoices’ dates; therefore, it is difficult to ascertain whether they are pending bills or related to works done and invoiced in the current financial year. Please, therefore, revise the schedule to include the date of the invoices and attached copies of the payment vouchers for the 19firms.” A correspondence by the CoB addressed to Sakaja through the Finance and Economic Planning County Executive Committee Member Charles Kerich reads in part.
Through a letter dated June 27, 2023, Ref:COB/NBI/001/171(11), Nyakang’o notes that the Nairobi county government did not provide the pending bills payment plan that would enable the matching of individual payees to the requisitions.
“Further, it is difficult to match the proposed payments with the pending bills report earlier presented to this office.” The CoB adds in part.
Sakaja’s administration made the twin requisitions vide letters referenced as Ref NRB/FIN/1/2824/2023 dated June 19, 2023 amounting to Sh562, 124,660 and Ref NRB/FIN/1/2825/2023 dated June 19, 2023 amounting to Sh509, 152, 645.
Nyakang’o instructed County Treasury to provide the basis for the legal fees, status of each court case including copies of judgement where applicable.
Also, the CoB’s office demanded a clear breakdown detailing the criteria used in the selection of the said payments, the recommended ‘first-in-first-out’ method used in identifying the bills and information on whether the proposed payment is a partial payment or a final payment to the legal firms.
The now abortive controversial payout had been blocked through a law suit filed by lawyer Clinton Mwale against the Nairobi County government as first respondent, Nairobi governor Sakaja as second respondent and Law Society of Kenya as an interested party, High Court judge justice L. N. Mugambi issued directing all the defendants be served in seven days.
“I have read the application dated June 20, 2023 together with the certificate of urgency and do hereby direct that: I decline all the exparte orders sought, the application be served within seven days.” The order reads in part.
Mwale filed the suit under the certificate of urgency through Mwale and Beitta Advocates.
The planned controversial payment, according to court documents is set to be made before the end of this financial year which is just eight days shy before it lapses.
According to documents filed in court, Sakaja’s administration owes various law firms more than Sh21billion as pending bills as of January 2023.
While questioning the modality used to identify the law firms to be paid, the petitioner says that he has since learnt that the National Treasury is in the process of disbursing money to offset pending bills to Nairobi county and that a plot has been hatched to selectively pay a few law firms.
Mwale claims the law firms were handpicked through discrimination considering other firms numbering to 300 have equally provided legal services to the county.
“The applicant has since learnt that the National Treasury is in the process of disbursing some funds to the 1st respondent (Nairobi County government) for purposes of sorting pending bills and the applicant has further learnt that the 1st respondent has approved to pay around Kenya Shillings Two billion to less than 15 law firms.” The documents filed in court says.
According to documents filed in court, the profiled law firms cited and profiled as among thos set to be paid include; Makallah Theuri & Company Advocates (Sh60million), L.N Nyaribo & Company (Sh50million), Okatch & Partners (70million), Okubasu Munene & Kazungu Advocates (Sh30million), Gikunda Miriti & Company (Sh67million) and Masire & Mogusu (Sh27.5million).
Others are; Anne Munene & Company (Sh34million), Koceyo & Company Advocates (Sh43.8million), Roba & Associates (51.8million), Ummi Bashir & Company Advocates (Sh32million), J.W Wachira Advocates (Sh58million), Momanyi and Associates (Sh91million), Jamal Bake & Associates (Sh47million) and Bespoke Insurance Brokers Limited (Sh28million).
Additionally, Osoro Onyiego and Manyara Advocates (Sh30million), Swanya and Company Advocates (Sh2.2million), Arati and Company (2.15million), KO Advocates (Sh20million), Moronge Advocates (Sh10million) and Ojienda Co. Advocates (Sh5million).
In March last year, the Nairobi County Assembly initiated probe into the controversial Sh595million legal fees paid to several law firms at City Hall.
The inquiry by the Nairobi County Assembly Public Accounts Committee follows an audit query by the Auditor General into the county executive’s legal fees expenditure.
According to the audit report, the county government made large payments as legal fees to various firms that offered legal services to the county.
However, the report said, the county executive did not provide documents such as nature of disputes, approvals for procurement of professional services records, records of services rendered and contract agreements for audit review.
The law firms included Munikah and Co Advocates, Ataka Kimori and Okoth Advocates, Abdullahi and Co Advocates, Musyoki Mogaka and Co Advocates, Koceyo and Co Advocates, Kwanga Mboya and Co Advocates, and Magoro and Co Advocates.
In concurrence with the Auditor General, the Assembly directed that no further legal fees payments should be until comprehensive audit is done.