The latest Auditor-General's report indicates that 23 ministry departments and agencies cannot account for Sh16.6 billion expenditure in the financial year to June 2018.
These department and agencies failed to provide payment vouchers, records on receipt of delivered goods and purchase of products outside the budget to support the expenditure.
While this does not necessarily mean the money has been lost, there is reason for taxpayers to get concerned given the levels of corruption reported in government every other day.
It is quite possible that the failure to provide proper documentation is a deliberate scheme to steal funds meant for critical public projects.
The Special Programmes department, for instance, is cited in the report as having failed to account for its budget on provision of relief to vulnerable households and members of society. The report should prompt the relevant investigative agencies, especially the Ethics and Anti- Corruption Commission (EACC), to swiftly swing into action. Where it is found that public funds were embezzled, the culprits should be apprehended and made to pay for their wrongs.
There should be a break with the depressingly familiar pattern where the Auditor-General unearths cases where taxpayers may have been stolen, some noise is made about bringing the perpetrators to book, and that is just about it.
Follow-up action by the relevant agencies is often limited if not entirely non-existent.
Yet without high-profile prosecutions and convictions, the Auditor General’s revelations remain mere revelations. And because culprits are left to go scot-free, they are motivated to continue with their theft and even scale it up, leading to the kind of eye-popping scandals such as the one unfolding at the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) regarding procurement Covid-19 testing kits.
Corruption takes root and thrives in an environment where culpable public officials aren’t held accountable. Therefore, to stop the scourge bold action must be taken on the basis of the Auditor-General’s reports.
What is the purpose of having such an office if its work is just to churn out reports that no one acts on?