Auditor General Ouko condemns lack of independence from Treasury

Auditor General Edward Ouko when he appeared before the Senate County Public Accounts and Investment Committee(CPAIC) at Parliament. [Boniface Okendo/Standard]
Auditor-General Edward Ouko has cited poor budgetary allocation, threats and accusations of political bias as some of the main challenges he has faced during his eight-year tenure.

Mr Ouko, whose non-renewable tenure ends this month, said budget makers had made his office resemble a ministry, as it was placed under the control of the National Treasury, affecting its independence.

He claimed that Treasury would ‘punish’ his office whenever there was conflict and deny it crucial money.

“Technically, they can control this office and punish you..like now in this lecture, if I make a remark and it does not please them, tomorrow you find that the release from the exchequer is not coming in time,” he said.

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Ouko spoke last week at the University of Nairobi, where he gave a public lecture dubbed Public Sector Accountability: Constitutionalism and Social Perspective.

He was appointed in 2011.

“When they control you by transactions, it means they can ensure that you can’t travel because they can block requests or unilaterally cut your travelling budget,” added Ouko, calling for a change in law to enhance the independence of the office.

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Ouko also questioned how resources for his office were determined saying that they were not assuring the independence of his office.

He also called for transparency during the choosing of his next successor arguing that the selection process must inspire public confidence.

“If post of auditor-general is not advertised personally and we know how many people have applied then we also ask who have been shortlisted then you can see that from the very beginning we have a problem of independence this is something we have to challenge our legal processes to ensure that the successor of this process must be advertised, shortlisted and the interviews conducted transparently,” said Ouko.

He said that his office had extended reach to the grassroots through citizen accountability audits through a frame work that was recently launched that put locals at the centre of the accountability process.

He further said that this might solve inaction by Parliament on his audit reports.

 “We should be able to get all the areas in the ground where citizens can see clear impunity and corruption can bring that into our database and have a forensic audit.”

Ouko also stressed the importance of mainstreaming of lifestyle audits in the counties ‘because citizens see what’s happening’ and called for punitive measures for those who could not explain how they acquired wealth.

“A lot more should be done on lifestyle audits. They can have a taxation element where a person who cannot explain the wealth will be taxed a certain amount,” he said.

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Auditor-General Edward OukoNational Treasury