MPs to vet president’s pick for new Auditor General

Parliament is preparing to vet President Uhuru Kenyatta’s nominee for Auditor General, Nancy Gathungu.

The seat fell vacant in August 2019 following the expiry of Edward Ouko’s eight-year tenure.

Uhuru’s pick is an insider at the National Audit Office.

The president has since forwarded her name to National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi for onward communication to the House and subsequent vetting by the relevant committee.

“Ms Gathungu was the first among the top three candidates presented to the president for nomination by the recruitment panel for the selection of the Auditor General as set out in law,” read a statement by State House spokesperson Kanze Dena-Mararo.

The position was advertised afresh after 17 shortlisted candidates failed to reach the threshold for the final shortlist in December last year.

Public Service Commission Chairperson Stephen Kirogo said the position was re-advertised to ensure competitiveness.

If confirmed, Gathungu will succeed Ouko in tackling a number of pending audit queries, some stretching back to 2014, including the multi-billion Eurobond.

Gathungu was the director quality assurance under Ouko. Between 2011 and 2015, she acted as the Auditor General’s personal assistant.

Parliament relies on the audited reports to hold public officers to account and allocate resources to the two levels of government.

The Auditor General submits annual reports of the presidency, all ministries, departments, agencies and county governments for scrutiny.

Uhuru has been under intense pressure to pick a new Auditor General. 

In April this year, MPs accused the executive of deliberately delaying the recruitment of the Auditor General to compromise accountability of public resources, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic spending.

They questioned the National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukuru Yatani on how he intended to ensure all resources raised during the Covid-19 pandemic were properly utilised and not embezzled.

Appearing before the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Covid-19, Yatani conceded that the continued absence of a substantive office holder at the Office of the Auditor General had a negative effect on audit reports, some of which were yet to be signed.

Pending bills

The CS said the ripple effect of not having an Auditor General extended to verification of pending bills contested by counties.

Senators agreed

“In the absence of a substantive office holder at the Office of the Auditor General, it will be very difficult to confirm the pending bills and other expenditures. This will cripple accountability. A lot of money will be lost,” said Senator Michael Mbito (Trans Nzioa).

Wajir Senator Abdullahi Ali had warned that if an Auditor General was not appointed soon, “we will end up with good books but nothing coming out of them in counties and the national level”.

The first process of hiring a new Auditor General that began in September 2019 was marred with controversy. This took a legal turn after the Employment and Labour Relations Court held that the selection panel that re-advertised the vacancy was illegally in office.

Justice Stephen Radido held that the term of the selection panel ended when it concluded the initial process by declaring that it had not found a suitable candidate to recommend.

The court then ordered Attorney General Kihara Karuiki to submit to Parliament a report of the cancelled interview stating the criteria used and the scores for the candidates who had been shortlisted.