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Court backs fresh recruitment of Auditor-General

Kenyans will have to wait longer for the next Auditor General after a court declined to stop fresh recruitment that began in December. In a judgement delivered Thursday, Justice Stephen Radido also asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to either extend the mandate of the selection panel or constitute a fresh one as current one “lacks legal competence and validity.”

“The selection panel appointed lacked legal competence and validity to consider any applications for the re-advertised vacancy for the position before the extension of its life or constitution afresh,” the judge said.

Mr Edward Ouko, the first person to occupy the office under the 2010 constitution, retired last August at the lapse of the eight-year non-renewable term. The process for his replacement started immediately but the panel opted to re-advertise the position saying none of the 17 candidates shortlisted after the first interviews met the criteria for the job.

This prompted activist Okiya Omtatah to challenge the decision in court, saying some of the considerations imposed by the panel were outside the eligibility threshold set in law.

Justice Radido then temporarily barred the selection panel from advertising the post afresh, pending yesterday’s judgement. On Thursday the judge directed the Attorney- General to submit a report on the interviews conducted last year, to Parliament, even as new one starts.

Once the legality of the selection panel is fixed, and it opts to shortlist the applicants who responded to the re-advertisement, it will take up to seven working days to forward the names of three top applicants to President Uhuru Kenyatta. Under the Public Audit Act, the President must nominate one candidate and forward the name to the National Assembly within seven days.

The Public Audit Act further grants the National Assembly three days to approve or reject the nomination. That means the earliest Kenya can have the next substantive Auditor General is by mid-April.

The delay has complicated financial planning for State Corporations whose books cannot be closed because a substantive Auditor-General has to sign them. Agencies such as Central Bank of Kenya, the Capital Markets Authority, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, Kenya Power, KenGen and East African Portland Cement Company have since been allowed to release unaudited accounts.

Decisions such as dividend payment must however wait for Auditor- General’s signature.

Section 81 of the Public Finance Management Act, 2012 requires the accounting officers of a national government entities to, not later than three months after the end of each financial year, submit the financial statements to the Auditor-General among other constitutional offices and publicise the financial statements.

This article was originally published by Business Daily Africa.


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