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AUDITING GOVERNMENT

Why new Auditor General should not sit pretty - PAC Chair Wandayi

PAC chairman wants the new auditor general to also fast track the completion of pending special audits as directed by the National Assembly

In Summary

• Wandayi also challenged Gathungu to uphold the high standards and professionalism, which he said, “the office has been known for.”

• This was also the advice by Ouko, who challenged Gathungu to maintain the independence of the office she was inheriting.

Former Auditor-General Edward Ouko hands over to the New Auditor-General, Nancy Gathungu on July 23, 2020.
Former Auditor-General Edward Ouko hands over to the New Auditor-General, Nancy Gathungu on July 23, 2020.
Image: COURTESY

Expediting release of the government expenditure audit report for 2018-19 for scrutiny by Parliament should be new Auditor General Nancy Gathungu's top priority, Public Accounts Committee chairman Opiyo Wandayi has said.

Gathungu took office on July 23, effectively becoming country's second Auditor General under the 2010 Constitution.

She succeeds Edward Ouko who retired last year after eight years at the helm. 

Wandayi told the Star that his committee had completed examining 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 audit reports, all of which it has tabled in the House and have been adopted.

 

The National Assembly PAC chairman noted that Gathungu's in-tray is full, but said the signing off and releasing the 2018-19 audit reports should be her top priority.

“In essence, the Committee has achieved the target it had set for itself from the beginning of ensuring an up-to-date scrutiny of and reporting on the audited accounts,” he said.

“Constitutionally, the release of these reports and their presentation to Parliament is behind schedule. She must embark on the audit process for 2019/2020 financial year without delay”.

He wants the new auditor general to also fast track the completion of pending special audits as directed by the National Assembly.

The special audits are on land compensation for the SGR project and procurement of foodstuffs by Ministry of Defence.

Guard office's independence

 

Wandayi also challenged Gathungu to uphold the high standards and professionalism, which he said, “the office has been known for.”

This was also the advice by Ouko, who challenged Gathungu to maintain the independence of the office she was inheriting.

Speaking as he handed over, Ouko challenged her to tailor her own shoes, rather than seeking to fit his.

“The independence of this office is yours to give away,” Ouko said

“...Don’t worry about the big shoes. What should worry you is how you are going to tailor your own.”

International Center for Policy and Conflict executive director Ndung’u Wainaina told the Star that Gathungu must guard the independence of her office and sustain objectivity and professional skepticism.

The lobby wants Gathungu to maintain a rigorous audit model that is expeditious and widened the scope of scrutiny to include new areas like mining, gas, tax and military audits.

“..[The] OAG must address all the outstanding audit questions on the all key megaprojects by the Jubilee government for the last seven years, including giving full, transparency and unqualified report of the Eurobond,” he added.  

Wainaina, however, challenged Parliament to amend the Public Audit law to secure financial autonomy and independence of the Auditor General’s office to wade off attempts to manipulate it by starving it of money.

‘The Public Audit law should provide for the full financial autonomy of the office. This will be achieved by instituting mechanisms that provide for direct submission of Auditor General’s annual budget estimates to the National Assembly and not through the National Treasury,” he said. 

Wainaina believes the audit process in the country has critical gaps that undermine the efficacy of the Auditor General reports and implementation of the recommendations

“Key challenges include inaction on documented financial malpractices by state actors, poor or lack of cooperation by accounting officers during the audit process, and technical language used in audit reports,” he said.

Other challenges include  institutional capacity gaps within the Auditor General’s office hence inefficiencies in the audit process and poor tracking of the public audit cycle by critical stakeholders, he added.