ACCOUNTABILITY

Auditor General needs support to win war on graft

The office must thus be well funded to be able to recruit the best and incorruptible professionals.

In Summary

• We urge the new Auditor General to protect our funds with courage, knowing that she will get public trust, admiration and support if she does so.

• This will directly lead to more funds being available for our development.

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

One of the most thankless jobs in our country is that of the Auditor General.

The holder is a friend of the common people but an enemy of many in the the ruling class. I can, therefore, only wish the “brave" Nancy Gathungu, the new Auditor General best wishes and will be praying for her during her eight year term.

She comes into the Office a year after her able predecessor, Edward Ouko, which must be creating many problems as a result.We deliberately strengthened the Office of the Auditor General in the 2010 Constitution based on the experience of growing levels of corruption; increasing revenues; and the expected additional work due to devolution.

Our intention was to have a holder of the office who could protect the common man.The job is to promote good governance and accountability in the management of our funds. The main focus is on unsupported expenditure, excess spending, pending bills and imprest that public servants take.

He or she also audits the national debt. In recent times, the Auditor General also pays more attention to the expenditure and provides performance audits where he or she tries to establish if Kenyans got positive benefits from allocated funds.

 This is an important aspect of the job, especially given the high levels of corruption, and gives his or her opinion at the end of the audit. All audits of national government and her institutions, in addition, to those of the devolved institutions, should be concluded within six months of the end of the financial year.

On receiving the reports, Parliament and county assemblies should debate and take appropriate action within three months. The auditor follows up later to confirm that the recommendations have been acted upon. Many public servants do not like to be audited. If they had any choice, there would be no such a thing as audits.

It is, therefore, unsurprising that they will do everything possible to delay the process. That is why tight deadlines were introduced.

Historically, backlogs of audits have been several years behind but the situation improved under Ouko. The result had been that Parliament was discussing reports with new officers, as the ones who mismanaged the funds had in most cases already left. What then was the purpose of discussing reports that were over five years old when all that the Parliament could do was to simply complain ?

An analysis of some audits show many budget items were qualified, with some even having adverse opinions. In most cases, the worst audit reports are over the utilisation of government funds. The audits of donor funds fair a little better, although there are cases of poor utilisation as well.

Since these problems are repetitive and are encountered every year, one wonders if it is not done deliberately by the accountants to facilitate theft. The chief auditor has found many cases of inflated procurement bills, short cuts in procurement and overspending without appropriate approvals. In times of crisis such as we are going through with Covid-19, there is always evidence of outright mismanagement of public funds.

We must, therefore, strengthen this office if our corruption is going to be restrained. That is why we gave the holder of the office a long term contract of eight years. We hoped the holder would be bold and be able to perform his or her functions without fear as sacking them was not going to be easy. That is also why he or she is nominated by the President and confirmed by Parliament on behalf of “ we the people ".

The Auditor General is one we look to for protecting our funds.The office must thus be well funded to be able to recruit the best and incorruptible professionals. It must be able to react to situations early enough before things get out of control.

If KRA is allowed the have intelligence officers, so should this office for it  to be effective. In addition, the holder must not fear the Executive and Parliament as the office is independent.

A coward, or a yes-man holding this office would not bring public trust to it. We further hoped that the Executive and Parliament would treat the Auditor General as a partner in protecting public funds and not as an enemy as had been previously and continues to be the case.

We made the assumption that all public servants would want to protect the funds.nA professional analysis undertaken by the Institute of Economic Affairs, while analysing the 2013-16 audit reports found out that the Executive and Parliament were failing badly, with the result that the quality of public service rendered is not matched to the resources generated from the taxes.

Put in layman’s language, this analysis, with which I totally agree, was telling us that our money is being stolen in large amounts. We urge the new Auditor General to protect our funds with courage, knowing that she will get public trust, admiration and support if she does so.

This will directly lead to more funds being available for our development.