Parliament on the spot over justice to audit report
By Roselyne Obala | December 9th 2018
Audit reports play a critical role as they form the basis for accountability by public officers. Sadly, the reports are never acted on.
The Public Accounts Committees (PAC) of both Houses of Parliament are mandated in law to consider the national government and county government annual audit report, and ensure all pending queries are resolved, including apportioning blame. However, not much has been achieved.
For the first time in history, the Director Public Prosecutions (DPP) approved the prosecution of Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya when he declined to appear before the Senate Public Accounts and Investment Committee to answer audit queries.
Whereas the Auditor General Edward Ouko’s report have rattled politicians and civil servants alike that saw a petition in the 11th Parliament seeking his removal from office, the reports have formed the basis of probe of loss of billions of taxpayers’ money.
Ouko’s reports have exposed shocking graft cases, while some MPs have taken advantage of the same to whip up emotions, talking tough while grilling witnesses only to turn around in their committees to table in either ‘watered down’ reports exonerating those adversely mentioned.
Minority Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni) affirmed that the recommendations are never acted upon by authorities.
No official has been pursued as result of the documented theft or loss of public money, whether in office or outside.
He suggested that audit reports should also propose the stoppage of disbursement of funds until culprits are brought to book.
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In the last Parliament, governors defied Senate invites to answer audit queries, accusing senators of seeking ‘cheap publicity’ to dress them down.
The stand-off formed the genesis of a court case to interpret the law on summonses.
The famous ‘pesa siyo ya mama yako’ declaration by National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale (Garissa Town) to former Council of Governors (CoG) Isaac Ruto stemmed from a standoff on audit questions.
Sometimes audit reports fail to hold specific individuals to account while others are used for "rent seeking".
This has seen questions being raised on whether MPs do just justice to audit reports as required by law.
During the committee deliberations like the Sh791 million National Youth Service (NYS) scam, the Sh180 milllion Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF), Sh9 billion NYS Two, the loss of funds in the counties and the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF), MPs unearthed damming evidence which were never documented in the final reports tabled in Parliament.
Jared Okello (Nyando) explained that there are three oversight committees assigned to interrogate audit reports and recommend action.
They include PAC, Public Investment Committee (PIC) and the Special Funds Committee dealing with funds like NG-CDF, Uwezo Fund, Youth Fund and Women Enterprise Fund, among others.
“Certain reports have individuals adversely mentioned or qualified report (Auditor’s opinion). There is always recommendation to forward the file to investigating agencies like Ethic and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), DCI and DPP.
“In areas where the financial probity is as a result of lack documentation to support expenditure, we ask the relevant government agencies to provide the document to the auditors to address the financial query,” said Okello.
He continued: “Parliament is not the prosecutor. It offers oversight of the general public funds. It has the public best interest and only recommend for further probe that lead to prosecution not leading to acquittal. We have no powers to recommend acquittal of suspects,” he said.
Okello expressed concern that some MPs in various committees are not financial experts while investigating agencies are endowed with the personnel that sit at a vantage position and do a better job.
Some of the approved reports by the House are gathering dust as the implementation committees of the National Assembly and Senate struggle to put pressure on the relevant government agencies to act.
National Assembly PAC chair Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja) affirmed that MPs have done exemplary well in interrogating the reports, making significant milestone in safeguarding public funds.
“The adoption by Parliament of the PAC report for 2014/2015 financial year is a major breakthrough. The report has achieved two objectives. Firstly, it has formed basis for enhanced allocation of revenue by Parliament,” he said.
He continued: “Secondly, it has made far-reaching recommendations for dealing with wastage of public funds and corrupt practices by public officers."
He said the Director Criminal Investigation George Kinoti and the Director Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji should find the report useful in bringing to book those found culpable.
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