The country’s year-long long wait for a new auditor-general will come to end in the coming few days after the National Assembly approved Ms Nancy Janet Gathungu for the job.
The lack of a substantive auditor-general has complicated financial planning and reporting for State corporations.
But even as President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to appoint Ms Gathungu to succeed Mr Edward Ouko, whose eight-year non-renewable term came to an end in August 2019, a section of the MPs have questioned the appointment process.
Mr Ouko was the first auditor-general under the 2010 Constitution.
Leader of Minority John Mbadi (Suba South), while acknowledging how important the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) is for the country, said that the Constitution needs to be amended so that an independent body undertakes the hiring process.
According to Mr Mbadi, using the Public Service Commission (PSC) to recruit the office holder may not be the best way.
“I am concerned that [Ms Gathungu] was among those on the list that was rejected by the selection panel that interviewed her. If you are rejected and then finally appointed it puts some doubts in the office,” said Mr Mbadi.
Ms Gathungu, 51, was among the 17 nominees that the selection panel chaired by Mr Sammy Onyango recommended to President Kenyatta as not qualified for the job.
She would however, emerge top in the fresh interviews conducted by the same panel scoring 70.3 percent.
Yesterday Mr Mbadi noted that President Kenyatta has a difficult task explaining to Kenyans why a majority of his appointments including the Auditor-General, must come from a certain region.
“The President must address the doubts the Kenyans have in his government. That the State appointments are taking ethnic pattern.
“It is difficult to convince Kenyans that the best are only to be found in certain regions bearing certain names,” Mr Mbadi said.
Mr Mbadi noted that Ms Gathungu is coming to the office with so many issues and question marks and that despite her failure to secure the job in the first attempt, she must demonstrate to Kenyans that the stone that was rejected finally became a cornerstone.
Ms Gathungu is currently the Director of Audit at the Auditor-General’s office, a position she has held since February 2014.
Before then she was the deputy director of audit.
In her current position, Ms Gathungu is answerable to five deputy auditor-generals, who will now become her juniors once she gets the job.
It is not clear whether the five individuals, who will now report to her, applied for the job.
“How will my junior who was answerable to me yesterday become my boss tomorrow? If we don’t have maturity in that office then it will bring big problems to the country,” Mr Mbadi noted.
Former leader of majority Aden Duale (Garissa Township) and Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja), who chairs the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said that the appointment of Ms Gathungu was long overdue as there are many pending audit reports awaiting her signature.
“Ms Gathungu is cut out for the job. She holds extensive knowledge of audit,” said Mr Duale, noting that the only challenge Ms Gathungu has is to inculcate the level of professionalism Mr Ouko inculcated in the office.
According to Mr Wandayi, Ms Gathungu’s top priority is to sign off and release the 2018/19 audit reports to enable parliament and the county assemblies to play their oversight roles in the usage of the public funds.
Constitutionally, the release of these reports and their presentation to parliament is behind schedule.
“She will need to embark on the audit process for the 2019/20 financial year without delay. She will also need to fast-track the completion of the pending special audits as directed by the National Assembly,” Mr Wandayi, whose PAC is a huge consumer of the audit reports, said.
“She must uphold the high standards and professionalism for which the office has been known,” he said.
Some of the special audit requests include- the special audit on land compensation for the SGR project and procurement of foodstuffs by the Ministry of Defense, the special audit on the Lake Turkana Wind Power (LTWP) project to establish the cost of the Loiyangalani- Suswa power evacuation line among others.
So far at least Sh7 billion has been paid to the investors behind the LTWP for the deemed energy after delays in the construction of the Loiyangalani- Suswa power line.
Economist Tony Watima noted that Ms Gathungu’s task lies in helping Kenyans understand accountability of public money especially during the period the country did not have an Auditor-General.
“Releasing audit reports for national and county governments will kick start the accountability process of the two tiers of government,” Mr Watima said.
He however, noted that one of the concerns to be addressed by Ms Gathungu is how entities like Kenya Airways decided to hold their annual general meetings without the auditor-general’s report.