GACHURI: The new Auditor General must prove her worth, raise the bar even higher
Published on: July 17, 2020 03:46 (EAT)
Almost one year later, the country will finally welcome its second Auditor General under the 2010 constitution. The National Assembly approved the nomination of Nancy Janet Kabui Gathungu to succeed Edward Ouko as Director General, office of the Auditor General. Prior to this, she was the Director of Audit, Office of the Auditor General, and before, she occupied the Deputy Director’s office, in the same directorate. She is basically an insider. Gathungu pipped three of her colleagues; William Agunda, David Gichana and Sylvester Kiini to the coveted, but influential and high pressure assignment, that has an 8-year fixed term, that is non-renewable. But even before she sets out to fill Ouko’s big shoes, Gathungu has to contend with questions on the process that resulted in her ranking as the most suitable candidate. She had initially been interviewed for the critical position, together with 16 other applicants by a selection panel chaired by Sammy Onyango. That panel concluded that though the shortlisted candidates had the requisite academic credentials, none made the mark and recommended a fresh process. The Onyango-panel concluded that the applicants lacked unique traits like tactfulness and diplomacy, which are required to handle the pressure that comes with the office. Later on, the Public Service Commission chaired by Stephen Kirogo declared her the best, with a 70.3% score and recommended her nomination for appointment, subject to parliamentary approval. On Wednesday, Minority Leader John Mbadi was among lawmakers who expressed reservations with the process of selecting a nominee being handled by the Public Service Commission, and proposed a more independent exercise for future occupiers of the Auditor General’s office. While the jury is out on how she made the cut, attention now shifts to her ability to carry out the duties of closely monitoring use of public resources by the National and 47 County Governments. Her predecessor told the nation that at least a third of the annual national budget remains unaccounted for every year. And even if, for argument’s sake, we looked at the 2019/2020 budget, that translates to about Ksh.1 trillion. Her in-tray is full. The first key assignment being dealing with pending audit reports and shinning the spotlight on all the dark alleys used by the governors to siphon millions of devolved funds. The same rigorous scrutiny of books expected on National Government accounts, that often yields huge scandals worth billions of shillings. Her predecessor set the bar, with some level of independence and clarity of mind, despite glaring attempts to intimidate him by the Executive. Gathungu must prove her worth. She must raise the bar even higher. She must be the ear and eye of Kenyan taxpayers by pointing the country to all the audit queries; big or small. During her tenure, every shilling must be clearly accounted for. The first obvious point of focus is the COVID-19 billions at the Ministry of Health and 47 County Governments, where disasterpreneurs and crisis hawks are currently hovering. Remember our mantra? Wakihesabu, tunahesabu. Wakijumlisha, tunajumlisha. Wakiiba, tunawamulika! I wish her best of luck. But I doubt luck alone will be enough.