Full in-tray awaits Uhuru’s Auditor General nominee - Beaking Kenya News

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Sunday, 21 June 2020

Full in-tray awaits Uhuru’s Auditor General nominee

Nancy Janet Kabui Gathungu
For listed public-owned entities and their shareholders, the nomination of Ms Nancy Gathungu as the next Auditor-General is a relief, as they wait for Parliament to vet her.
Since former Auditor-General Edward Ouko left office in August 2019 at the end of his non-renewable eight-year term, there has been a pile-up of unsigned audit reports at the Kenya National Audit Office because it is only the Auditor-General who can sign them. The existing law does not allow for an acting Auditor-General.
“A long to-do list awaits the next office bearer, with Mr Ouko having vacated office almost 11 months ago. There are several pending audit reports and we do not want to see a return to the previous era, where annual audit reports were being issued several years later, in arrears,” said Ms Sheila Masinde, the executive director of Transparency International-Kenya.
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday nominated Ms Gathungu to be the next Auditor-General. She is now the director of audit (quality assurance) in the Office of the Auditor-General.
The listed public-owned entities, have been affected by the vacancy in the office, that has seen them put off their Annual General Meetings for lack of audited financial results. They are also unable to pay dividends to their shareholders.
KenGen, for instance, last year told its shareholders that it would only pay dividends after their financial statements are audited.
“The Board of Directors shall make a recommendation regarding any final dividend for the year ended June 30, 2019, once the audit of the financial statements for the said period is completed,” KenGen boss Rebecca Miano had said.
For the general public, the failure to fill the position since August 2019, means that they cannot tell how and where their taxes were spent, which makes it difficult to hold the government to account.
“The delays impeded accountability efforts and the new office-bearer needs to ensure that pending reports are quickly but diligently dispensed,” said Ms Masinde.
The Auditor-General audits more than 1,300 public entities comprising government ministries, departments, agencies and the semi-sutonomous government agencies. And for almost a year, the audit reports have not been completed for lack of an Auditor-General.
The chairperson of Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya, Rose Mwaura, says it is a good thing that the nomination has been made.
“I am expecting that once she is confirmed by Parliament she will be able to finalise the audits that have been ongoing,” she said.
On the listed entities, Ms Mwaura acknowledged the difficulty they have experienced that forced them to seek the Capital Markets Authority’s permission to delay publishing the same, until a new Auditor-General is appointed.
The Auditor-General is by law required to submit audit reports to Parliament by December 31 of each year. It means Ms Gathungu will have just two months to clear the current backlog and then turn her attention to the next cycle, of holding the government to account for the public funds.
The chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Opiyo Wandayi, says that Ms Gathungu will have no ‘honeymoon’ period, because there are so much the committee expects from her.
“The most urgent is for her to release the 2018/19 reports and other special audits we had requested,” said the Ugunja MP.
Among the special audits expected are those on land compensation for the Standard Gauge Railway and on the Ministry of Defence’s procurement of food.
“She will have no time, because we are in a crisis. We hope such a delay in appointment does not recur,” Mr Wandayi said.
In his eight years at the helm of the office, Mr Ouko had constant fights with the Executive, who succeeded in clawing back some powers of his office, especially regarding human resource functions.
In his last press engagement, Mr Ouko narrated the tribulations he underwent as the Auditor-General, including attempts to remove him from office, threats to his family and being rebuked in public by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“It has been bumpy because of the nature of the job I have to do. I have to be the bearer of news that certain people may not like. Naturally, there have been some frictions. But I believe I have been applying myself for the good of Kenyans,” he said.

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