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Economy

New budget controller expected this month after 15 interviewed

Ms Agnes Adhiambo, the former Controller of Budget
Ms Agnes Adhiambo, the former Controller of Budget. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Kenya’s second Controller of Budgets (CoB) after Agnes Odhiambo is likely to assume office before the end of this month as the last lot of the 15 shortlisted candidates appear for interviews today.

The interview panel chaired by former Brand Kenya chief executive Mary Kimonye has seven working days, starting today to forward the names of three top applicants to President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The Controller of Budgets Act of 2016 also hands the President another seven days to pick a nominee from the three who must then be approved or rejected by the National Assembly within three days.

Assuming each of the institutions took their maximum time, the new CoB should be cleared to assume office by October 31.

Among the candidates gunning for the job is acting CoB Stephen Masha who took over on August 26 following the exit of Ms Odhiambo. Mr Masha was Ms Odhiambo’s deputy.

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Also in the list is William Kirwa, a chartered accountant initially picked by former President Mwai Kibaki to serve as Kenya’s first CoB in 2011.

It was only due to strong opposition from Mr Raila Odinga, Prime Minister at the time, that Mr Kirwa lost the chance to serve as CoB.

Mr Odinga, a co-principal in the ruling coalition, rejected Mr Kirwa’s nomination, saying Mr Kibaki had failed to consult him on the appointment.

Mr Justus Nyamunga who sits in the Budget unit at State House is also in the race alongside others like Judith Akuma, Duncan Otieno, Edith King’ori, Leornard Lari, James Akeyo, Celestine Munda, Muinde Patrick, Karen Njeri, Macklin Ogolla, Elizabeth Mwathi, Margaret Nyang’ate and Abubakar Abdirahman.

The Kimonye-led panel draws members from the Office of the President, Attorney General’s office, the National Treasury and Ministry of Public Service.

Top on the to-do list for the next CoB will be to tame a growing appetite by the counties that have perennially overshot set limits on monthly spending for Members of Ward Representatives’ sitting allowances.

For close to five years, the media-shy Agnes Odhiambo enjoyed a relatively quiet sail as Kenya’s first CoB until October 2016, when Mr Odinga accused President Kenyatta’s government of failing to account for the proceeds of Kenya’s first Eurobond worth Sh250 billion.

Sources once told Business Daily of how the Treasury and State House officials accused Ms Odhiambo’s team of leaking confidential information to the Opposition.

The CoB is, by law, supposed to be in the know of any withdrawals of public funds.

Ms Odhiambo avoided media interviews, issued no press releases and restricted public communication to her quarterly reports.

As her term eight-year term came to an end, she asked the Kenya Revenue Authority to consider collecting levies on behalf of the 47 counties.

The counties have consistently missed their revenue targets since they started full operations in 2013.

She also raised the red flag over ballooning public expenditures driven largely by salaries of workers of bloated national and county governments.

According to the Constitution, the Controller of Budget, like the Auditor General, has a fixed one-term.

Under CoB Act, any Kenyan citizen can serve as the Controller of Budget as long as they hold a degree in finance, accounting or economics and meet constitutional threshold for integrity.

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