As Auditor-General Edward Ouko prepares to vacate office in August after an eight-year term, the biggest concern for many Kenyans is the person who will succeed him.
Already, intense lobbying has started for the position, presenting a tough balancing act for President Kenyatta.
The Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (Icpak) has asked the President to constitute a selection panel to start the recruitment of Mr Ouko’s successor.
Icpak is worried that a delay in the appointment of a new Auditor-General and Controller of Budget (Ms Agnes Odhiambo is also set to retire) will impact negatively on timely approval of the budget and audit of various books across the country.
“A process started well in advance will ensure that we do not run into the challenges that have characterised transition in the various commissions,” Icpak chairman Julius Mwatu said.
The Auditor-General’s position is a veritable hot seat with its occupant permanently in the crosshairs of political operatives due to the nature of the job.
Mr Ouko will leave office with memories of the many battles he fought to counter efforts to cut him down to size. Politicians tried cutting his office budget, infringed on his independence and went after his staff.
Instructively, his exit will be a relief for the Jubilee administration, which has tried all ways to oust him because of his bold audit reports exposing wastage and corruption in government.
Governors, who have often been put on the spot over wasteful spending and routinely dismissed Mr Ouko’s reports as a pile of half-truths meant to tarnish them, will also be a happy lot. Mr Ouko chose to fight his battles privately, but a cocktail of ouster petitions here and public humiliation there by the presidency catapulted him into the limelight, laying bare his troubles in public.
“The Auditor-General’s position is very important and the Constitution bestows on it enormous responsibility,” Mr Ouko told a forum attending the release of a report on the government’s war on corruption earlier this week.
The last years in office are a pointer to the behind-the-scenes intrigues in the struggle to unseat Mr Ouko.
In 2017, the campaign to remove him from office suffered a significant setback after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) cleared him of corruption allegations.
Mr Keriako Tobiko, who was the DPP, admitted he had been under pressure to prosecute Mr Ouko, at the behest of powerful political players.
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) had recommended the prosecution of Mr Ouko and his former deputy Stephen Kinuthia for their role in what it termed irregular procurement of the Sh100 million Audit Vault software in exchange for kickbacks.
Sued the President
But, in his defence, Mr Ouko gave a breakdown of the Sh100 million that was used to procure the system, showing that Sh74 million catered for the cost of the Oracle licence, Sh15 million on Oracle annual support costs, Sh6.5 million on the first instalment of the system’s implementation fees and Sh3.5 million on Value Added Tax.
“In simple terms, Ifmis is an Oracle-based system. On the other hand, the Audit Vault is an Oracle prescribed tool for auditing Ifmis. Therefore, it is given that Ifmis can only be audited by the Audit Vault,” Mr Ouko argued.
On EACC’s second charge of engaging in a project without prior planning, the DPP said there was enough evidence in the EACC file negating the same charge.
And, in a petition filed in Parliament, Mr Emmanuel Mwagambo Mwagonah, a lawyer, sought the Auditor-General’s removal from office.
Unbeknown to Mr Ouko, that petition gave Parliament a much-need impetus to join a fight previously waged silently by the executive.
The document cited at least 30 grounds on which Mr Ouko should be kicked out of office. The most damaging was that he benefited from the award of a Sh100 million contract for the Audit Vault system software.
Mr Ouko went to court to stop his ouster over allegations of wastage of public funds. He sued President Uhuru Kenyatta, the National Assembly, its Speaker, Mr Justin Muturi and Clerk Justin Bundi as well as Attorney-General Githu Muigai.
Earlier in 2016, Mr Ouko came under a scathing attack from the President at State House, who criticised him over his investigations into the Sh280 billion Eurobond saga.
And, aided by Mr Ouko’s reports, the Opposition constantly harangued the government over corruption, especially after a poor show in the first two years of the Jubilee administration.
In fact, some Jubilee officials were convinced that Mr Ouko was feeding Opposition leader Raila Odinga with confidential information concerning financial scandals in government.