AUDIT QUERIES

We can starve you of cash, Muturi warns Judiciary

Speaker says Parliament cannot hesitate to recommend no allocation for unaccountable state agencies

In Summary

• Kenya’s Judiciary and Parliament have had a frosty relationship for a better part of the life of the current Constitution.

• President Uhuru Kenyatta moved to quell the jurisdictional conflict saying all institutions, including the presidency, must be accountable to Kenyans.

Parliament will not hesitate to deny the Judiciary cash if its accounting officers cannot appear before the Public Accounts Committee to answer audit queries.

Speaker Justin Muturi has maintained that all state entities will have to appear before Parliament to answer audit queries, adding that Parliament itself appears.

In reference to the recent protest by Chief Justice Martha Koome, Muturi said Parliament will be at liberty to withhold funds for any agency that persistently ignores the August House and does not want to be accountable for the expenditure of public resource

Muturi made the sentiments at the sidelines of the 80th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association executive committee meeting in Nairobi.

The meeting had delegates from Botswana, Cameroon, Eswatini, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

The speaker said it would be unfortunate for any state agency reported by the auditor general to choose not to present themselves before the Public Accounts Committee and Public Investments Committee.

He said it would be more troubling especially when they come from the Judiciary “who should be the best custodians of the principle of no one should be condemned unheard.”

“By failing to appear, and there is evidence that they have been invited and they have failed deliberately, then they should not blame parliament in making whatever recommendations it will make,” Muturi said.

Justice Koome, in her letter, blocked the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Anne Amadi from appearing before the PAC to explain why the courts have not hired a finance director since the post fell vacant seven years ago.

The CJ further stopped the human resources committee of the Judicial Service Commission from explaining to lawmakers why 10 judiciary posts are held by persons in an acting capacity.

The events point to an outright war pitting the Judiciary against the legislature and by extension the Executive which it has been feuding for some time.

The speaker raised concerns that he first saw the communication from the CJ on social media, saying the event was unfortunate as ‘that is not the way arms of government should relate.’

He held that world over; Parliaments have a constitutional mandate to oversight all arms of government, in which they rely heavily on audit reports.

Muturi further holds that when performing the referenced constitutional mandate, Parliament has no option but to go by the rule of “don’t condemn anybody unheard.”

The speaker said he hoped that the CJ did not, in her letter, mean that “the judiciary will be rogue and spend public resources as they deem and be accountable to nobody.”

“I believe that is not what the CJ means. I don’t think she meant they want to spend public resources and only be accountable to themselves,” Muturi said.

“When it comes to matters of accountability, the accounting officers appear before PAC. No one has thus harassed the Chief Justice because she is not the accounting officer.” 

Parliament usually gets responses for unresolved audit queries being instances where the auditor is not satisfied with the responses given during the review period.

The Public Accounts Committee had written to the speaker seeking direction on whether it could proceed and conclude its review of the audit of the national government for the financial year 2018-19 without the crucial evidence it is pursuing from the judiciary.

Chairman Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja MP) sought the direction in respect of audit queries bordering on irregular appointments at the judiciary.

Non-responsive state entities risk being indicted by Parliament for misappropriation of funds, with the attendance consequence being starved of exchequer allocations.

Kenya’s Judiciary and Parliament have had a frosty relationship for a better part of the life of the current Constitution.

In 2014, there was a bone of contention between the two institutions on the numerous sanctions the courts issued against Parliament.

These were largely on account of governors not wanting to appear before the Senate’s County Public Accounts and Investments Committee.

President Uhuru Kenyatta moved to quell the jurisdictional conflict saying all institutions, including the presidency, must be accountable to Kenyans.

 

Edited by Kiilu Damaris