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Accountants push for changes allowing acting Auditor-General

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

Accountants are pushing for changes in law to allow the appointment of acting head of the National Audit Office to fill the void left by an Auditor-General whose term expires.

Through their lobby, the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (Icpak), the accountants say the legal changes must fix the maximum period during which the acting Auditor General can remain in office.

At the moment, the law does not recognise an acting Auditor- General.

That implies that the books of the government ministries, departments and agencies which had not been signed by the time Edward Ouko retired in August last year are still open.

Icpak says the appointment of an acting Auditor-General would ensure timely approval of budget as well as audit of counties and the national government.

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“We will make recommendations to amend legislation to allow for an acting Auditor- General for a short fixed period during which time the substantive auditor general will be recruited to avoid the lacuna we have in place currently where all public sector entities are unable to release their results in a timely manner due to the lack of a substantive auditor general,” says Icpak chairperson Rose Mwaura Friday.

Six State-controlled institutions, including three companies listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange, have since gone public over inability to meet deadlines for publishing their financial results for the year ended June 2019, occasioned by the absence of an Auditor-General.

They include the Central Bank of Kenya, the Capital Markets Authority, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, Kenya Power, KenGen and East African Portland Cement Company.

The recruitment of Mr Ouko’s replacement started in September last year but looks set to extend to March after the process spilled to the courts late last year.

Former Deloitte East Africa chief executive Sammy Onyango who was appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta to head the Auditor General recruitment team initially indicated that they had picked three names to be nominated for the job.

Later, however, the Public Service Commission chairperson Stephen Kirogo announced that the team was unable to pick any suitable candidate from the first group of applicants. He subsequently re-advertised the position.

A few days ago, the Employment Court temporarily stopped the second short-listing resulting from the re-advertisement.

Justice Stephen Radido issued orders barring the selection panel from carrying on with recruitment pending the determination of a case filed by activist Okiya Omtatah.

In the petition, Mr Omtatah argued that the panel does not have the powers to reject the candidates who had already been shortlisted, claiming that the decision to re-advertise the position was unconstitutional.

While the panel said the applicants had the right academic and technical qualifications, the PSC said they were found short on independence, diplomacy and tack tests, which Mr Kirogo said were key.

However, Mr Omtatah says in the suit that the three requirements are not part of the constitutional threshold for the job and the barriers were making the decision illegal.

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