Auditor General Ouko has faced many battles in his daily work

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019 12:00 |
Former Auditor General Edward Ouko. Photo/File

Peter Okong’o

Edward Ouko, who left office yesterday, has defined why the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) is possibly the most important functioning independent institution and why the choice of his successor cannot be left to the gods of fate.

Ouko has been a thorn in the flesh of corrupt public servants, so much so that in 2017 there was an attempt to kick him out of office using the National Assembly.

Some in government were worried that further exposure to grand theft would cost them votes. A petition was lodged with the National Assembly seeking his removal from office in February 2017 for flouting Article 251 of the Constitution.

The petition was, however, dismissed by Justice George Odunga who said, among other things, that Parliament acted outside the Constitution by denying Ouko the right to face and cross-examine the petitioner as provided for under Article 47.

No other office, since the departure of the Kanu regime, has done more to keep the public eye focused on the war against corruption and theft of public funds than the OAG and it has done so consistently with the report upon report listing instances of abuse of office by State officers.

Graft investigations

His reports remain the basis of several investigations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations many of which have led to prosecutions by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Driven by his passion for honour in public service and belief in the war against corruption, it is no surprise that he found only a handful of close friends in government, where the release of his reports was a much-feared ritual for the corrupt.

When the OAG won an award last year for its efficient and open implementation of new audit models it was the ultimate recognition.  The Regularity (Financial) Audit Award of Recognition was the culmination of seven years’ work going back to August 2011, when Ouko was appointed Auditor General as former President Mwai Kibaki’s final term was winding down.

Concern over who will take over from Ouko has been raised in the Senate.

“We have less than one month to have our replacement for the Auditor General and Controller of Budget. The process is described in the Constitution, but I do not think it is a process that can be done overnight. If we do not replace these constitutional officeholders on time, we might end up with the crisis.

Even the fight against corruption might suffer,” said County Public Accounts and Investments Committee chairman Moses Kajwang early this month. According to the Constitution, his deputy cannot take up the office until Ouko is audited.

Not keen on leaving office under a cloud, Ouko has been pushing for an independent audit of the OAG by an auditor hired by the National Assembly, as required by Article 226 (4) of the Constitution.

The audit would cover the 2014/15 financial year onwards. 

Public goodwill

National Assembly Public Accounts Committee (PAC) procured the services of PKF Kenya to conduct the exercise before Ouko exits the office.

While Ouko largely had public goodwill, he may have left unhappy with the lack of action over numerous reports churned over the years pinpointing likely theft or misuse of public funds.

However, the recent launch of the Citizen Accountability Audits framework may be the surest bet to lighting a fire under agencies charged with investigating and prosecuting cases of corruption.

During its launch, it was clear Ouko saw this as his most important legacy to Kenyans, providing them with a tool that, for the first time, gives them a fighting chance to hold their leaders, investigating agencies and Parliament accountable.

“Proper use of the tool will make it possible for more women and youth to participate in public audits,” said Ouko, adding that leaving the fight against corruption solely to the DCI and EACC is a self-defeating strategy.

He has recommended changes in the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) and the amendment of the Public Audit Act so that the OAG can surcharge officials convicted of stealing from the public as it happens in Ghana and South Africa.

A fellow and member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales, where he represents Africa, Ouko is also a member of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya and holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree (Hons) in Finance and Accounting from the University of Nairobi.

He was previously the Auditor General of the African Development Bank in charge of the audit, anti-corruption and fraud functions during a 24-year career with the bank. He also worked in London and Nairobi for Deloitte, Haskins and Sells.

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