BY EDWARD OUKO
Recent public interest in the management of resources in the public sector requires us to rethink our approach to public finances oversight. A cursory glance of local dailies, news channels and social talk in the last one month reveals questionable financial malpractices covering the entire spectrum in the public sector.
This is a sad state of affairs as we strive to become a middle income economy by 2030. Could we then say that the Sh1.6 trillion proposed expenditure in this financial year is safe amidst the demonstrated financial malpractices being experienced?
Reading the Constitution reveals various commissions and State agencies set up to check on these malpractices. The question is how come this trend continues with a rapid increase of the amounts involved despite the numerous agencies set up to control it? Should we continue using the same methods we used yesteryears to fight the war against fraud, corruption, wastage and abuse of public resources?
Without casting any blame and pouring cold water onto ongoing efforts to fight corruption and restore good governance and accountability in the public sector; the point I am making is that we are either too slow or too late in reacting to these malpractices in a deterrent manner.
Most of these agencies come into the picture long after the horse has bolted. Is it still good enough talk about where and how money has been lost and service delivery compromised, while the perpetrators drag the oversight agencies in long, frustrating litigation games that run into years?
We need to strengthen institutions and mechanisms of ensuring that most of these anomalies are detected, deterred and acted upon in real time. The relevant oversight agencies must be proactive if we are to sustain the fight against corruption.
Whereas fiscal accountability has been the major focus of the Auditor General, there is need for continuous auditing if we are to respond to managerial accountability and assessment on service delivery.
The new dispensation not only requires the Auditor General to determine whether the books of accounts are correct or not, but even more important how the resources are managed and the impact in terms of changing the lives of ordinary Kenyans.
The constitution in 229 (4 and 6) requires the Auditor General is to report and confirm whether or not public money has been applied lawfully and in an effective way.
Focus on managerial accountability is going to be important to Kenyans because it responds to Kenyans’ urge to see the top management in public sector uphold the principles of leadership and integrity under chapter six and the values and principles of public service under Chapter 12 of the Constitution.
Consequently, offices such as the Office of the Auditor General must thus refocus to respond to the Kenyans urge for greater accountability. We need to approach our work in a way that addresses fiscal accountability, managerial accountability; and assessment of whether the resources have been efficiently, effectively and economically used in the delivery of services to the citizens.