It is almost seven months since Mr Edward Ouko’s term as the Auditor General expired yet the critical position is yet to be filled. Even worse is the fact that the process of replacing him might take longer than expected.
The process is marred by controversies after the selection panel failed to get a suitable person on the grounds that none of the 17 shortlisted people had “shown passion” and re-advertised the job. The vacancy was first advertised in December 2019.
However, activist Okiyah Omtatah, and Katiba Institute went to court to challenge the decision by the selection panel to re-advertise the job. As a result, the Employment and Labour Court, through Justice Stephen Radido suspended the new recruitment pending determination of the case.
Mr Omtatah argued that the selection panel overstepped its powers when they cancelled the recruitment. He termed it as illegal and unlawful. According to him, neither the president nor the panel has any inherent powers beyond what is stated in the law.
He explains that where persons meet eligibility threshold set in the constitution, the selection panel does not have power to decline to select three candidates from those it interviewed and forward their names to the President.
He also argued that the attributes on extraneous considerations cited can only give one an added advantage where they are considered necessary, but cannot be held as an absolute bar against any person who qualifies, in line with requirements in the Constitution and the law.
“The decision to re-advertise the vacancy in the position of Auditor-General is unconstitutional and, therefore, invalid, null and void,” he said.
“Pending the inter-parties hearing and determination of this case, the court hereby issues an interim order prohibiting the sued parties and their agents, howsoever acting, from giving effect to the advert, howsoever published, re-advertising the vacancy in the office of the Auditor-General and asking qualified and interested persons to apply …,” the judge said.
The House’s Public Investment Committee (PIC) and Special Funds Accounts Committee had also summoned the Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, Treasury Secretary Ukur Yatani and the head of a selection panel on the recruitment of new Auditor-General Sammy Onyango.
Mr Kathuri Murungi, the chair, Special Funds Accounts Committee confirmed that the trio will appear before them on Thursday March 12th at 2:30 pm.
All unsigned audit reports would have to wait for the appointment of an Auditor General, if the documents have to be legally binding. Before leaving office, Ouko was concerned that as the law is, none of his six deputies is authorized to sign the audited financial reports for onward transmission to parliament. This has led to a pile up of unaudited reports at the audit office.
Treasury Secretary Ukur Yatani, in a letter to National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, cited the vacancy in the national audit office as the reason why Central Bank failed to submit certified financial statements for the year 2018/2019. Mr Yatani wants the National Assembly to consider extending the timelines for the office of the Auditor General to submit its reports to parliament until the new office is appointed. “There is no indication that we are going to have a new Auditor General soon” said Yatani.
1,200 public entities usually have their financial statements Audited by the Auditor General’s Office. They are now staring at a possible crisis if a replacement is not found soon. Other firms affected include the Nairobi Securities Exchange, the Capital Markets Authority, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, Kenya Power, KenGen and East African Portland Cement Company.
The Auditor General’s position is not the only vacant office in Kenya. Another office is the Data Commissioner’s office. Delay in appointing a Data Commissioner has also delayed the implementation of the Data Protection Act, 2019
Read more about the Auditor General’s office HERE
New Auditor General’s Reports and how to Interpret Them
Access to Information Laws not Obeyed by Parliament and Auditor General https://jhkea.org/access-to-information-laws-not-obeyed-by-kenyan-parliament-and-auuditor-general/
What Journalists should do:
- Inform your audience about the functions of the Auditor General and the impact created by the vacancy. Narrow down these impacts to the grassroots giving examples of what they can easily relate to.
- Explain to your audience the process of hiring an Auditor General so they can understand.
- Find out how Counties have been affected by this vacancy.
4. Find out if there are other public offices that have been vacant for too long and their impact to service delivery.
By Vitalis Rugie