Judging by social media, immediate reactions to the appointment of Robinson Njeru Githae as Acting Minister for Finance were negative. Nonetheless, Githae as Minister for Finance should be given a chance to find his bearing, and so we would first wish him well in his new job while reminding him of certain matters left unattended by his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta.
In his inception memorandum we would emphasise the following key issues:
Accountability to Parliament:
Minister Githae will have to explain to Kenyans why his ministry has frustrated the unanimous resolution of the National Assembly to conduct an independent forensic audit into the National Budget; a resolution which arose from the discovery of a Sh10.6 billion hole in the Supplementary Budget of 2008-2009.
For his guidance the minister may want to re-read the Joint Committee Investigation Report which in May 2009 identified a hole of over Sh8 billion in the budget of the Ministry of Education under the Teachers Service Commission line item. This is the reason why no funds are available for hiring new teachers.
Revenue Reporting Discrepancies
Minister Githae’s pending parliamentary business tray also contains a request for a ministerial statement on massive discrepancies between revenue as reported by his ministry to Parliament and the revenue reports by the Auditor General.
Additionally his ministry has yet to tell Parliament how many Treasury Revenue Accounts were refused certification by the Auditor General in the years 2008-2010. His predecessor dodged this question since April 2011; but Waziri Githae must answer John Mbadi’s important query since he has nothing to hide. By the way Bwana Waziri should be aware that Mars Group identified Sh714 billion worth of uncertified revenue in the Auditor General’s Reports of 2007-2009.
Debts of the Republic of Kenya
When he is done with revenue, minister Githae should explain to Parliament what plans he has to comply with a more recent resolution of Parliament.
On 23rd February 2011 the National Assembly passed a Motion by Martin Ogindo, MP, that in accordance with the provisions of Article 211(2) of the Constitution; the House resolved that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance must present to the Budget Committee of the House within seven days of the resolution, information concerning the loans and debts owed by the Republic of Kenya as at 31st December, 2010 in respect of:-
(a) Loans to Ken-Ren Chemicals and Fertilizers Company Ltd;
(b) External commercial debts on Security Related projects as
reflected in the 2008/2009 Annual Public Debt report published by the Ministry of Finance and;
Further the Minister for Finance was required to include all information as enumerated in Article 211(2) necessary to show:-
1 The extent of the total indebtedness by way of principal and accumulated
2. The use made or to be made of the proceeds of the loan;
3. The provision made for servicing or repayment of the loan;
4. The progress made in the repayment of the loan;
5. Names of the creditors and the beneficial owners;
To date, no such information has been supplied.
Investigation of Dubious Transactions:
If he wants to be more transparent than his predecessors, minister Githae also has the opportunity to publish several long awaited documents related to for example the Spain-docked Anglo Leasing Kenya Navy Ship Jasiri Mombasa; and the acquisition of 40 percent shares in the De La Rue Currency Mint in Ruaraka (a deal which his new Permanent Secretary knows a whole lot about).
There is also the pending investigation into the role his other predecessor Amos Kimunya played in the Rift Valley Concession over the Kenya Railways; and the role of the Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya in the purported sale of the Grand Regency Hotel to the Libyan Government. We say purported, because the Transitional Libyan Government may actually not be aware of this deal.
Minister Githae’s outgoing predecessor almost failed to pass his budget because of shortcuts which were noticed by Parliament. The Speaker and the High Court have clarified the correct procedure for budget making. The public must participate and the Parliament must do the final draft.
It is therefore Githae’s urgent duty to re-publish the Budget making timetable and follow it. As minister Githae is not a presidential contender, or under indictment, he can afford to spend some time building a new positive relationship between the Treasury and ordinary wananchi.
Do not bust the bank:
Waziri Githae must be reminded that Government has no money of its own and that contrary to what his Permanent Secretary believes, the Government can in fact go broke.
Githae has the chance to put a stop to the Kenyan Government’s bad habit of borrowing for recurrent spending. Waziri, monitor your development investments.
Demand that parastatals wean themselves off the taxpayers’ teat and you will do us all a great service. On this last point, find out if it is true that transfers to state corporations exceed the entire government wage bill every year; and they pay precious little in dividends. Something isn’t right with this equation.
Finally, good luck with the job. You’ve been handed a poisoned chalice so watch out!
(The author comments on governance and public finance issues. firstname.lastname@example.org)