Auditor-General Auko retires and warns on successor

Auditor General Edward Ouko when he appeared before the Senate County Public and Investment Committee at County Hall, Nairobi on Wednesday 24/04/19. [Boniface Okendo,Standard]

Outgoing Auditor General Edward Ouko has said loopholes in law guiding public audit have made the office toothless.

He also warned that ongoing audit work would be greatly compromised due to lack of a substantive Auditor General.

Ouko called for comprehensive review of the Public Audit Act, which he complained does not make audit reports actionable.

This, he said, deals a huge blow to efforts of holding to account those responsible for looting and embezzlement of public funds.

Ouko spoke in his final media engagement following the end of his eight-year term on Monday. 

He also protested the lacuna in the law, which he said fails to guide transition, a situation that has led to him leaving office without a substantive successor, or even any process to recruit the next Auditor General being put in place.

Ouko warned that the lack of a substantive holder of the position could hold back crucial reports that are in the final stages of the audit process and which require to be tabled in Parliament, but which cannot be forwarded as the law requires that they must be signed by the Auditor General.

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“I am leaving office, but I do not know who takes over...I do not know who will sign the reports that are due because I am not allowed to do it. This can demoralise auditors who are undertaking their duties. As we talk, there are some critical reports that are pending and unfortunately are likely to get lost,” he said.

Ouko said parliamentarians must avoid such lacuna in the law, which could be costly in the accountability processes.

He said the law, whose review he has proposed in his exit report, should be amended to ensure that the process of appointing a successor is in place before the term of the incumbent lapses.

“This is not a political office where the Speaker has to declare a seat vacant. It beats logic why the process should not start early. Why wait until the term of incumbent has lapsed? For any document from this office to have the force of the law, it must be signed by the Auditor General, not anyone acting in that position."

But it is the lack of action plans for the many audit reports that his office has churned over the eight years he has been in office that appeared to be a major regret for Ouko, arguing that the Legislature must be bold enough to grant the office actionable powers.

“As things stand now, our reports are always greeted with the statement “the auditor has flagged down all these issues, so what? We would like actions defined in the law to avoid this question of so what?” he added.

Ouko said he has made proposals for the review of the Act, where the office calls for the formation of an oversight board in Parliament that would be tasked with the review and approval of budget of the Auditor’s office and also tasked with the appointment of the Auditor General.

Ouko said despite the challenges he faced in his tenure, which included a push by some senior elements in Government for his prosecution over the procurement of Oracle computer software, Audit Vault, and the unsuccessful petition for his removal through Parliament, he had a fulfilling term.

Yesterday, he recalled the turbulent moments when the forces had sought his prosecution, culminating with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission recommendations that he, together with seven others, be prosecuted for criminal offences relating to the procurement of the software.

But the then Director of Public Prosecution Keriako Tobiko came to his rescue, dismissing the EACC report.

Ouko is not yet decided on his next assignment, saying he first needs to re-organise his personal affairs that have greatly suffered over time.

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Auditor General Edward OukoCounty HallEACC