PAC Chairman Nicholas Gumbo (centre) with committee members Abdikadir Aden (left) and Julius Melly address the media at Parliament Buildings on the Auditor General?s report, Monday. PHOTO: MOSES OMUSULA/STANDARD
The National Assembly?s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) faulted the Treasury and some MPs who have dismissed the report by the office of the Auditor General on public expenditure that was unaccounted-for, saying officials should instead be pressed to provide satisfactory answers.
The committee took issue with Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich for allegedly attempting to cushion the indicted ministries and departments from parliamentary scrutiny for the billions in the 2013/2014 financial year.
The team, which is mandated to study such reports and table recommendations before the House, also claimed Treasury has joined a chorus of MPs that has been actively poking holes into the report without waiting for parliamentary scrutiny.
?It amounts to misuse of public funds for any ministry or State agency to take out a full page advert to purport to respond to the Auditor General?s report while the Constitution clearly provides for a mechanism to do so. It especially becomes unacceptable when the ministry in question happens to be the National Treasury?? said their statement read by PAC Chairman Nicholas Gumbo.
?Parliament and the Auditor General must be seen as partners in ensuring that public resources are applied for the intended purpose. When, therefore, some MPs come out to attack the report, then the question must be asked; on whose side are they: the thieves or the people of Kenya?? PAC said while addressing the Press at Parliament?s media centre.
It is also emerging that a number of staffers in the Auditor General?s office have been receiving death threats as a result of various damning reports churned out by the office. And PAC is not taking any chances; it said the Treasury should concentrate on finding out the identity of the people behind the threats.
?As the custodian of our granary, what the Treasury CS should be telling the nation is the proactive measures he is taking to address the serious cases of frustration of staffers at the Auditor General?s office? to the point a number have been receiving death threats. We will be demanding answers for this blatant misuse of public funds,? PAC said.
Abdikadir Aden (Balambala) said: ?If anyone is scared by this report, then they should be more afraid. They have nowhere to hide. When the report comes before PAC, we will unearth even more scandals if there are any.?
Other PAC members at the press conference were Julius Melly (Tinderet) and Richard Onyonka (Kitutu Chache South).
Onyonka accused some of his colleagues in the House of undermining the Auditor General?s work. ?We don?t want to be an appendage of the Executive. Our oversight role will be diminished if we continue undermining independent institutions? I?m going to seek the direction of the Speaker if it is right for some of our colleagues to go around in funerals dismissing the Auditor General,? he said.
The PAC, also mandated by the Constitution to scrutinise all the Government?s expenditure, in its statement put on notice all those named in the latest report.
Monday, Deputy President William Ruto asserted the Government?s commitment to winning the war against graft, but said concerns raised by the Treasury and the Council of Governors need to be considered. Ruto stressed the need to scrutinise the documentation to find out if Government resources were lost and take action against culpable officials.
?We have agreed as a country to stand shoulder to shoulder in fighting corruption, misuse and wastage of Government funds. We are asking every Kenyan to be an agent in fighting graft by exposing the people engaged in it. Corruption is perpetuated both by Government officials and the private sector hence all must be involved in wiping it out,? Ruto said.
The current report of Auditor General Edward Ouko reveals various cases of alleged fraud, misuse and blatant waste of public funds. The watchdog office in its report said it could not find documents relating to 17 ministries and State departments in the last financial year.
It also cites a number of county governments in possible sleaze, arguing that in the absence of documentation, it is not possible to know if the billions were properly utilised or ended up in the pockets of greedy bureaucrats and other wheeler dealers.
Three ministries ? Health, Education and Transport ? could collectively not account for Sh56 billion that was allocated to them during the last financial year.
Others are the Agriculture ministry (Sh1.2 billion), Foreign Affairs ministry (Sh1.4 billion) and the Office of the Attorney General (Sh2.7 billion).
Government departments in the report included the Judiciary (Sh463 million), the Government Press (Sh271 million), the National Humanitarian Fund (Sh142 million) and the Teachers Service Commission (Sh128 million).
?In the absence of the records and documentation, the propriety of the expenditure of Sh66.7 billion could not be ascertained. Therefore these public funds may not have been utilised lawfully and in an effective manner,? said the report, which is one of a series of reports that have continually been churned out by the Auditor General but which end up gathering dust after being tabled in the House.
The figure being questioned by the Auditor General is twice the amount lost in the Goldenberg scandal that almost brought Kenya?s economy to its knees in the 1990s.
No sooner had the report become public than the Treasury accused Ouko of carrying out an audit that fell short of international standards.
Rotich was joined in his condemnation by Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia and a number of MPs who all said Ouko?s audit was a shoddy job littered with factual errors and which could not pass the test of local and international scrutiny.
?The audit did not meet the acceptable standards,? said Macharia when he appeared before the National Assembly?s Health Committee.
The Treasury docket boss said Ouko had not taken into account management comments that had been given by various Government ministries, agencies and departments before the report was compiled.
?These consultations should have brought clarity to all questions raised and resolved outstanding issues. It is, however, unfortunate that these were not taken into account when concluding the audit report,? said Rotich.
Kanini Kega (Kieni) recently accused Ouko of prematurely releasing the report.
By Wilfred Ayaga, The Standard