• President Kibaki emphasised that the position of the Auditor General is a fundamental pillar of governance under the new constitutional dispensation and in management of public affairs.
• As Ouko exits office today, has he been effective as a fundamental pillar of governance under the new constitutional dispensation and in management of public affairs?
When Edward Ouko was sworn-in into office on Friday, September 16, 2011, he was to begin a journey of eight years’ non-renewable contract to head one of Kenya’s independent offices.
While congratulating the Auditor General on his appointment and swearing-in, President Mwai Kibaki asked him"to team up with other Kenyans in building a prosperous nation that everyone would be proud of".
The Constitution provides that the Auditor General shall within six months after the end of each financial year audit and report on the accounts of the national and county governments, their funds and authorities, all courts, commissions and independent offices as well as the National Assembly, the Senate and the county assemblies.
President Kibaki emphasised that the position of the Auditor General is a fundamental pillar of governance under the new constitutional dispensation and in management of public affairs.
Other past holders of the position include Anthony Gatumbu, PN Komora, Evan Mwai and DG Njoroge.
Ouko previously served as the auditor at the African Development Bank.
As Ouko exits office today, there are many questions that need answers and can be summarised into one: Has the Office of the Auditor General been effective as a fundamental pillar of governance under the new constitutional dispensation and in management of public affairs?
Did Ouko ‘team up with other Kenyans in building a prosperous nation that everyone would be proud of" as Kibaki posited?
During his entire term, Indeed, corruption has been massive in the public sector, with him appearing clueless as to what is happening. In fact, the media has been more visible on matters corruption than OAG, despite the fact that the Constitution, the Public Financial Management Act and the Public Audit Act gives him unfettered access to all records.
It is criminal for anybody to deny the Auditor General any records and information in the execution of his mandate. Where the fight against corruption in the public sector is concerned, Ouko seems like the only ‘stranger in Jerusalem’. So what has hindered him from executing the constitutional mandate as envisaged in the Constitution and in accordance with the aspirations of ‘Wanjiku’?
Ouko has been in the media mostly defending himself and complaining about the expanded mandate in the 2010 Constitution that created the counties. It should not be lost on pundits that these county governments existed before the 2010 Constitution as local authorities and municipalities, which were about 175. The OAG is one of the very few public institutions that has been allowed to continue hiring new staff to address shortage besides increased perks.
Since Ouko assumed office, many complaints have been levelled against him, his office and staff members. His appointment was seen as political, one meant to assuage a certain corner in the then grand coalition government, sacrificing professionalism at the altar of political expediency.
In fact, oftentimes, he was accused of being an opposition sympathiser. Accounting officers have openly accused the OAG staff of soliciting for bribes to issue favourable reports, while some reports have been discredited from certain quarters.
Reports of scandals in this critical office have surfaced as was the case with the procurement of the audit vault where it is alleged that over Sh100 million was involved. Also, about 200 newly recruited members of staff were irregularly ‘advanced’ Sh100,000 each purportedly to buy laptops.
Whereas the Constitution requires the Auditor General to issue audit opinions by December 31 of every year for all public funds, he has never met these constitutional deadlines, something that should have been petitioned by Kenyans for a serious breach of the Constitution.
Users of OAG reports have lamented in the past about their poor quality. This is due to low morale by members of staff on account of discrimination in employment, promotions and transfers.
OAG is these days inundated by requests of special audits from unsatisfied auditees and users of his reports. In fact, if the office was to professionally execute her constitutional mandate, the fight against corruption would be a walk in the park for the government. From where I sit, Ouko is guilty as charged of making the office moribund and ineffective.
The President now has a chance to right the wrongs in this critical office when appointing his successor. Let him give the job to someone who merits and is willing to undertake professional audits as it were.