Auditor-General still a marked man despite being cleared

Tuesday February 7 2017

Auditor-General Edward Ouko at State House in Nairobi on October 18, 2016. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Auditor-General Edward Ouko at State House in Nairobi on October 18, 2016. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JAINDI KISERO
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Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko has displayed rare independence and autonomy by stopping a rear guard campaign by shadowy powerful figures within the Jubilee administration to remove the Auditor-General, Mr Edward Ouko, from office on blatantly flimsy grounds.

In a media interview last week, Mr Tobiko loudly lamented about what he termed as “sinister and mischievous” attempts by shadowy individuals - he did not name - to coerce him into joining what smelt like an orchestrated assault to have Mr Ouko prosecuted over the questions surrounding the manner in which the Kenya National Audit Office (Kenao) purchased the Oracle computer software known as Audit Vault.

“I find it rather strange that an extreme wave of urgency has been imposed on this matter when the same was not there since 2014, when it was taken up by investigators,” he was quoted as saying.

Having read through the whole report by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, which recommended that Mr Ouko and seven other officials of the Kenao be prosecuted for criminal offences, ranging from abuse of office to economic crimes, I am not surprised that Mr Tobiko rejected the recommendations by the EACC to prosecute Mr Ouko. Mark you, the allegation against Mr Ouko and company is not that they purchased the software at an inflated price. The beef is that Kenao purchased the software at Sh100 million when its budget for ICT in that financial year was a mere Sh18 million. If the matter ends up in court, we will probably be treated to contrasting views about the computation of Oracle’s global prices, which are all published on the Internet.

ON WEBSITE

And, was the software single-sourced or not? I will leave it to the courts to say because the names of firms within the Oracle partner networks are also available on its website.

We also know that until 2013, the only sites with Oracle Vault were Safaricom and Kenya Airways. It is not difficult to select an Oracle partner that has a live site with an Oracle Vault. My prediction is that the investigations will focus on Kenao staff found to have had dealings with the vendors.

There important lessons to learn from Mr Tobiko’s stand.

First, having multiple independent agencies dealing with corruption is turning out not to be a bad thing, after all.

Secondly, we have learnt from Mr Tobiko’s action that while autonomous anti-corruption agency such as the EACC can be a potent tool for fighting graft, they can only be effective where there are checks on their possibility to be used for political ends.

Thirdly, if we want to break down the influenced of organised corruption networks, we should encourage competition and distrust between anti-corruption agencies.

Still, Mr Ouko remains a marked man. Just the other day, President Uhuru Kenyatta publicly ridiculed him over investigations he has been conducting on the Eurobond issue.

CURTAILING POWER

The leader of Majority in the National Assembly, Mr Aden Duale, has accused him of conducting tribally instigated audits. Last year, Parliament passed a law aimed at curtailing his power. Indeed, the only reason why Kenao continues to operate with independence is because the Public Audit Act 2015 has been challenged in the High Court. Why do I say that Mr Ouko is still a man under watch? First, he is yet to publish a special audit on the Eurobond affair. Because he has taken long to clear the government on the issue, the National Treasury has been advised by transaction advisers that floating another Eurobond in the international markets will bring issues.

But perhaps the reason Mr Ouko sends shivers down the spines of the Jubilee administration is the effectiveness of the audit vault software itself. Having realised that Ifmis had long been captured by corrupt networks, the Auditor-General concluded that the best way to interrogate and get a full view of the government’s financial transactions was to acquire software that could go behind the corrupted Ifmis.

He wanted a tool that takes him straight to the Oracle database, where he can analyse the raw data. The software allows the Auditor-General to dive as deeply into the database to collect data and information he can use for forensic analyses.

Audit also allows him to see and recover any financial information and data that may have been deleted by crooked officials. Whichever way you look at it, the capability the Auditor-General has acquired is unlikely to make him popular with the well-connected tenderpreneurs who, acting in cahoots with top government officials, have turned Ifmis into an enabling tool for corrupt dealings.

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