EDITORIAL: Use of secret accounts to run public affairs wrong

Auditor-General Edward Ouko. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Auditor-General Edward Ouko. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Continued use of secret accounts to run public affairs as revealed in recent auditor- general reports is not acceptable.

The Constitution does not place any office or State agency above the law, not even the Presidency or the Interior ministry.

The Presidency and the Ministry of Interior could be acting within the law in spending billions of shillings away from public scrutiny, but they must submit themselves to review by the auditor- general as is required by the same law.

That is why a report detailing refusal by State officials to submit expenditure documents for audit is grave and needs prompt action. Edward Ouko says up to Sh2.7 billion has been channelled through a special account in the Presidency in the past three years.

Expenditure documents are missing in some cases, while some orders appear not to have been delivered despite payment of taxpayers’ money to dubious suppliers.

On the other hand, Mr Ouko reveals another secret account opened by the Ministry of Interior at the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB).

Reports that the Sh8.7 billion account was opened without the Treasury’s approval, contrary to Section 28(1) of the Public Finance Management Act, 2012 makes it even worse.

Besides, the ministry was found not to maintain a cash book, bank reconciliations and related payment records in support of cash transfers and withdrawals from the account contrary to regulations 90 and 104 of the Public Finance Management (National Government) Regulations 2015.

In a country where more than half the population lives in abject poverty, these revelations are mind-boggling. The reason the auditor -general has the authority to scrutinise confidential expenditure is to avoid this kind of wastage and pilferage of scarce public resources.

Immediate action is required to bring to account public servants who may have obstructed the lawful audit.

Those who colluded to swindle taxpayers through fictitious supply of goods and services must also face the law.

Parliament must rise to the occasion, as the body mandated by the Constitution to safeguard the citizens from excesses of the executive.

As it is now, there are too many audit reports gathering dust in Parliament to the detriment of taxpayers.