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Pass law to protect accountants keen on exposing graft

The expose of financial rot at Maasai Mara University by professional accountants
The expose of financial rot at Maasai Mara University by professional accountants demonstrates the urgent necessity of having a national whistle blower protection legal framework. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The expose of financial rot at Maasai Mara University by professional accountants demonstrates the urgent necessity of having a national whistle blower protection legal framework.

As ‘insiders,’ whistle-blowers are often the first and best early warning system for the types of financial malpractices, corruption and regulatory failures now proven as critical risks to the Kenyan economy.

The Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK) Institute wants to assure CPA Spencer Sankale, the whistle-blower, and others that we shall endeavour to see that they are protected and not victimised for their patriotism and professional acts in the face of public resources plunder.

The law as well as ICPAK ethical guidelines requires that the accountancy profession should take precedence over any instructions from a client or other person. The law insulates an accountant from any form of harassment, civil suit or being subjected to a disciplinary action for taking such actions or decisions or rejecting instructions from a client if such action.

But still in the absence of a strong national legal protection framework, dire consequences have befallen those who have attempted to whistle blow. Government and corporate employees who report wrongdoing to their managers, the media or regulators have faced dismissal, harassment and other forms of retribution such as reassignment to dead end roles.

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Some accountants have ended up losing their lives or leaving their companies (involuntarily) moments after speaking up, and many others have suffered through severe hardships such as long-term unemployment and financial instability.

ICPAK urges the government to put in place whistle-blowers legal protection mechanisms to insulate patriotic professionals who refuse to be mired in fraud and professional malpractices. Parliament should move with speed and pass the Whistleblowers Bill that will facilitate establishment of a Whistleblowers Protection Agency.

On its part the ICPAK has further developed a member protection policy that has been approved by the Council. We are in the process of operationalising whistle-blowing mechanisms at the Institute, including providing for anonymous reporting and establishing a member protection fund.

As we wait for laws to be put in place, the Witness Protection Agency should ensure that the safety of whistle-blowers is maintained. The information they share with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations is critical in the fight against corruption at their workplace.

The Institute will immediately commence investigations into the Mara University matter to ensure that ICPAK has full information on the role its members played in the theft of public funds. Any member found culpable will be dealt with in accordance with the Institute’s disciplinary mechanism.

Meanwhile we request our members to remain true to the profession and ensure they always maintain high ethical standards and follow the rule of law.

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