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Auditor General warns over clipping of his autonomy

 

Auditor-General Edward Ouko has called for changes in the Public Audit Bill saying if passed in its current form, it is likely to impede his office’s independent mandate to audit government expenditure.
Ouko, who was speaking during a meeting with the Kenya Parliamentary Journalists Association (KPJA) said several clauses like the one which mandates the Public Service Commission to recruit staff for his office and places budgetary allocations under the National Treasury are contradictory to the Constitution.

He notes Article 234(5) of the Constitution recognises him as the statutory head of the office and appoints all staff but the Bill proposes that the PSC will now take up this function.

“You can see that Kenyan actually intended the best international practices… but this is taking us back,” Ouko said.

He also wants Parliament to delete Clause 40 of the Bill which bars it from auditing the expenditure of security agencies and gags it from reporting commercial interests of a person under probe.

“All these are just like any other organs, out of their budget 80 percent are on very basic things that they procure, they are equipping a building, they are employing staff… surely are those not auditable? So the element that might be of concern is actually small. But that is no reason to place a blanket on it,” he said.

The Auditor-General termed as intimidating a clause which seeks to slap a Sh10 million fine or a jail term of five years for anyone convicted of disclosing or publishing contents of the Auditor General’s report before it is submitted to Parliament.

“Imagine I am going to employ you as an auditor and then I flash those provisions before you. When you go to audit will you audit with a free mind and professionally?” Ouko posed.

He continued: “We don’t want that because it’s intimidating, but we do believe we should also have a situation where we address such issues through disciplinary action and where there is criminal action, we take it to court.”

The Bill, which is among six constitutional legislations that must be enacted by May, is due to go to Committee of the Whole House next week where MPs are to consider amendments before it is transmitted to the Senate.


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