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How Auditor General has failed Kenyans

OPINION
By Dennis Waweru | August 15th 2015

The release of the 2013/2014 audit reports by Auditor General Edward Ouko has generated more heat than light.

For the first time, a situation is being presented where one of the most qualified office holders is unashamedly upsetting the basic philosophy of audit processes. The circumstances in which the audit reports on national government were revealed and the timing was quite suspect.

Let me demonstrate why Mr Ouko is treading on a dangerous path.
One, the reports are manifestly late. By the auditor’s own admission the audit is supposed to inform the next phase of accountability cycle. In other words, the audit should inform and guide the national budget process at its inception.

Again by his admission the auditor ought to have issued these reports by December 31 last year. I have it on firm authority the audit was done by this time but for some reasons only known to Ouko, the process was dragged out of scope and into irrelevance. Two, the reasons for the delay do not add up. The Auditor General says the process was delayed owing to staffing constraints in his office. On the contrary, some staff in this office are hanging for want of duties. The devolution of power and collapse of the 175 local authorities into 47 counties eased the burden on the auditors. One would have expected that audit reports to be more timely.

Third, release of audit reports through the media contravenes the philosophy and essence of auditing process. In a paid up advertisement where the AG painfully defended his actions, mention was made of the report being released to Parliament, the people’s representatives.

To date, most MPs have not been formally appraised of the reports. They have learned of the reports through the media, some of which have been exaggerated and blown out of proportion. Already, the atmosphere for debate of these crucial reports has been polluted by adverse public debate which has preceded the formal process in Parliament.

The reports have missed the bus in the sense that they did not inform the 2015/2016 budget process. Fourth, the silence with which the Auditor General observed the public debate betrayed his good faith. Other than the belated quarter a page advert, the Auditor General appears to have done nothing in terms of guiding the media and the nation in understanding the reports and the context within which they were made.

Indeed, he seems to have relished in the moment as national government was slayed for failing to account for billions of shillings. He denied Kenyans details of when the responses were sought, what nature of audit opinions he gave out and timelines of the process. Kenyans would be surprised to find that 99 per cent of audit opinions on audited entities were not adverse contrary to perceptions created by media reports. The Auditor did not bother to correct this perception.

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Fifth, to reduce the process to one whose only function is to afford fodder to a discredited opposition, is to miss the point. The Auditor General must show leadership in the fight against graft and suggest credible ways to cut wastage in Government.

The writer is Dagoretti South MP and Central and Nairobi Parliamentary caucus chairman

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