Auditor-General under the New Constitution
Open. Accountable. Responsible
The office of the Auditor-General is an independent office having express authority to probe the use of all Public Funds - especially within the three arms of national government, its agencies, and those within the Counties (County Funds).
The Auditor-General's role goes beyond reporting on the accounts of public entities and organs; the Office will also be expected to opine on how well or otherwise the Funds were used.
The office is led by an Auditor-General.
As an independent office, the office of the Auditor-General is watchdog office for the people of Kenya, to protect how (their) Public Funds are used. Previously, this office was combined together with that of the Controller of Budget under the office of the Controller and Auditor-General.
The office of the Auditor-General is a constitutional Office:
229. (1) There shall be an Auditor-General ....... (Chapter Twelve - Public Finance, Part 6 - Control of Public Money)
The specialised mandate of the Auditor-General is to report on the finances of both the National and County Governments, and those of State Organs. Excerpts from Article 226 of Chapter Twelve - Public Finance, Part 6 - Control of Public Money and Part 7 - Financial Officers and Institutions, respectively:
226. (3) ....... the accounts of all governments and State organs shall be audited by the Auditor-General.
In other words, the Auditor-General is entrusted by the people to examine the accounts of every public body that is exercising power on behalf of the people of Kenya. Excerpts from Chapter One - Sovereignty of the People and Supremacy of this Constitution, Article 1:
1. (3) Sovereign power under this Constitution is delegated to the following State organs, which shall perform their functions in accordance with this Constitution–– (a) Parliament and the legislative assemblies in the county governments;(b) the national executive and the executive structures in the county governments; and (c) the Judiciary and independent tribunals.
While discussing the constitutional provisions of Commissions and Independent Offices, we outlined the importance of the Office of the Auditor-General in the newly restructured Kenyan State under the Constitution of Kenya 2010. It was noted that the Auditor-General is expected:
"........ to assure Kenyans that public resources are safeguarded from misuse and above all employed efficiently and effectively for the benefit of all Kenyans" (Edward R O Ouko, 2012).
The office must therefore audit the accounts of any public body that is a recipient of public money within the arms of national and county governments. Part 7 - Financial Officers and Institutions:
229. (4) ......., the Auditor-General shall audit and report ....... on— (a) the accounts of the national and county governments; (b) the accounts of all funds and authorities of the national and county governments;
Including the Courts:
(4) ......., the Auditor-General shall audit and report ....... on— (c) the accounts of all courts;
As well as the accounts of Constitutional Commissions and Independent Offices:
(d) the accounts of every commission and independent office established by this Constitution;
Of all legislative Houses:
(e) the accounts of the National Assembly, the Senate and the county assemblies;
Even political parties are not exempted as they are beneficiaries of public funds:
(f) the accounts of political parties funded from public funds;
The Auditor-General also keeps an eye on the management of the country's public debt amounts, obligations, etc.:
(g) the public debt; and .......
In short, the Office of the Auditor-General does not require permission from anyone in order to audit accounts of any public body:
(h) the accounts of any other entity that legislation requires the Auditor-General to audit.
(5) The Auditor-General may audit and report on the accounts of any entity that is funded from public funds.
Public interest issues such as public debt, financial dealings, and accounts of the secretive National Security Organs, must be open to closer scrutiny by the Auditor-General, as they fall under Clause (4), and should be well spelled out in legislation.
The Auditor-General's reports will not just be about crunching the numbers on how public money has been used; they must contain a statement of interpretation and opinion too:
229. (6) An audit report shall confirm whether or not public money has been applied lawfully and in an effective way.
To ensure checks and balances in the exercise of public power, the accounts of the Auditor-General will themselves be audited by an accountant in private practice:
226. (4) The accounts of the office of the Auditor-General shall be audited and reported on by a professionally qualified accountant appointed by the National Assembly.
Curiously though, the Constitution grants Parliament and County Assemblies the authority to debate and "take appropriate action" on the audit reports of their own accounts:
229. (7) Audit reports shall be submitted to Parliament or the relevant county assembly.
(8) Within three months after receiving an audit report, Parliament or the county assembly shall debate and consider the report and take appropriate action.
229. (1) There shall be an Auditor-General who shall be nominated by the President and, with the approval of the National Assembly, appointed by the President. (Chapter Twelve - Public Finance, Part 7 - Financial Officer and Institutions).
The first holder of this office under the New Constitution was shortlisted by a specially constituted panel, and vetted by the Finance Committee of the National Assembly.
The Auditor-General serves for a limited period. This is intended to bring fresh vigour and ideas to the office, as well as prevent a situation where a compromised holder of the office who is the favourite of the President and/or Parliament, gets reappointed at the expiry of their term:
229. (3) The Auditor-General holds office ....... for a term of eight years and shall not be eligible for re-appointment.
1. Constitution of Kenya, 2010. National Council for Law Reporting. The Attorney General.
2. Edward R O Ouko, (2012). Retrieved April 2012 from http://www.kenao.go.ke/ Kenya National Audit Office. Ouko is the first holder of the Office of the Auditor-General under the Constitution of Kenya, 2010.