Parliament’s PAC delivering on its core mandate

Monday, April 27th, 2020 00:00 |
Parliament. Photo/File

Jessica Mbalu

Few people outside Parliament understand the workings of oversight committees of the House, especially the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

In the history of Parliament, worldwide, PAC was the first committee to be established and remains the foremost legislative oversight committee.

In Kenya, PAC is a creation of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly, which exercises oversight over national revenue and its expenditure pursuant to Article 95(4) (c) of the Constitution through PAC. 

Further, Article 203(3) of the Constitution provides that the equitable share of the revenue raised nationally and allocated to the national and county governments is to be calculated on the basis of the most recent audited accounts of revenue received, as approved by the National Assembly. The National Assembly can only grant such approval on the basis of PAC reports.

The current PAC chaired by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, was constituted in December 2017 and got down to work in early 2018. Right from the outset, it has remained conscious of the responsibility bestowed upon it by the Constitution and the Standing Orders and has endeavoured to discharge this responsibility with diligence and objectivity.

Through the dedication of its membership, the PAC has been able to clear the heavy backlog of unexamined audited accounts that it inherited from the 11th Parliament, in record time.

It has submitted to the House reports on financial years 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17, all of which have been adopted. Presently, the committee is in the advanced stage of the examination of the audited financial statements for 2017/18 financial year, the last to be submitted to the National Assembly by the Auditor-General. 

In essence, the committee has achieved the target it had set for itself from the beginning of ensuring an up-to-date scrutiny of and reporting on the audited accounts. This is, indeed, historic. 

The import of this is that, going forward, revenue sharing between the two levels of government will be based on more realistic statistics and counties stand to get more allocation of funds – a factor that can only contribute to the strengthening of devolution, for the benefit of the people.

In addition, the PAC undertook a special inquiry into the Auditor-General’s report on the financial statement of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for the period covering the 2017 General Election.

It, subsequently, compiled a detailed report and submitted it to the House which, eventually, adopted it with amendments.

It is also important to note that in all these reports, the PAC, based on evidence tendered before it, has made far-reaching recommendations, including actions to be taken against public officers for misuse of public funds.

In a number of cases, the committee has recommended further investigations by relevant agencies with a view to ascertaining criminal culpability in order to institute prosecution.

These reports are contained in the records of the National Assembly and are, therefore, in the public domain. 

And it must be clear that the PAC can only speak through its reports. It cannot be expected to make pronouncements in public rallies or such other fora. 

Under Wandayi, PAC has institutionalised professionalism in the management of the affairs of committees of Parliament and does not court unnecessary publicity.

This is one PAC whose integrity has not been put to doubt. Like Caesar’s wife, it has remained beyond reproach.

Clearly, the contribution of  PAC in checking corruption in the public sector, in enhancing accountability and in ensuring taxpayers get value for the billions of funds appropriated by the National Assembly cannot be gainsaid. 

It must, however, be appreciated that even though the PAC does not strictly have a mandate over the implementation of its recommendations, it continues to work closely with the particular House committee that is charged with this responsibility. —The writer is MP for Kibwezi East and vice-chair, Public Accounts Committee.

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