Explained: Why Kenya Lacks Auditor General 6 Months On

  • Kenya's Auditor General Edward Ouko speaking during a Reuters interview in Nairobi on June 14, 2018.
    Kenya's Auditor General Edward Ouko speaking during a Reuters interview in Nairobi on June 14, 2018.
    REUTERS
  • Monday, August 26, 2019, was the last time Kenyans were addressed by an Auditor General, as Edward Ouko vacated his office following the end of his 8-year tenure.

    Six months later, the appointment of his successor has taken on the form of a spirited game of hide-and-seek, with the entire process grinding to an inexplicable halt.

    The recruitment exercise began in September 2019 headed by the Chairperson of the selection panel for the appointment of the Auditor General, Sammy Onyango.

    However, it has dragged on well into the new year, with the courts reeled into the constantly evolving story as well.

    Former Deloitte East Africa CEO Sammy Onyango who chaired the selection panel for appointment of Auditor General.
    Former Deloitte East Africa CEO Sammy Onyango who chaired the selection panel for appointment of Auditor General.
    Daily Nation

    In the first recruitment exercise, 70 candidates were interviewed, with 17 shortlisted and 3 names forwarded to  President Uhuru Kenyatta for approval. 

    The president on receiving the names, however, expressed his discomfort with the names presented, forcing the committee to re-advertise the position.

    Onyango, who had voiced his confidence that a new auditor general would be in the office by January 2020, changed tune following Uhuru's directive.

    “The names were ranked according to performance. We expect to have a new Auditor-General by January next year,” Onyango stated while speaking to the Nation on Wednesday, December 4, 2019.

    However, these sentiments changed on December 11, 2019, with Onyango stating that the shortlisted applicants had failed on the personality front.

    “The interview digs deeper to find the person who has the character to uphold the independence of the office. They must possess diplomacy and tact to handle the relationship with the three arms of government,"  Onyango reiterated.

    Following the re-advertisement of the position, lawyer Okiya Omtatah went to court to try to stop the entire process.

    The vocal lawyer argued that the panel could not decline to select candidates based on personality and diplomacy given that these are not the requirements set out in the law.

    Justice Stephen Radido, on the basis of Omtatah’s arguments, issued an order temporarily blocking the re-advertisement of the post on Friday, January 17, 2020. 

    Edward Ouko who had served for eight years as provided for under the constitution had highlighted the government’s failure to plan for a suitable successor. 

    "This is not a political office where the Speaker has to declare a seat vacant. It beats logic why the process should not start early. Why wait until the term of incumbent has lapsed?" stated Ouku during his last press briefing on Monday, August 26, 2019. 

    The importance of the Auditor General is clear, if not from the weight of the roles given to the officer, then it can be derived from the battles undertaken by the former AG.

    Certain factions had made insinuations that the vacancy at the AG's office would be a relief for the Jubilee Administration given the bold audit reports Ouko had released against the administration during his tenure.

    Former Auditor General Edward Ouko speaking before the National Assembly's Budget and Appropriations Committee on October 13, 2016.
    Former Auditor General Edward Ouko speaking before the National Assembly's Budget and Appropriations Committee on October 13, 2016.
    Daily Nation

    Ouko had utilized his position to highlight the wastage and corruption in the government. Governors had also not been spared from the auditor's gaze, as he routinely flagged their wasteful spending.

    It was, for instance, his investigation into the Ksh280 billion Eurobond Saga that earned him severe criticism from the President. 

    Given the delays enforced by the court, the recruitment process is likely to drag on past March during which time Kenya will remain without an auditor general.