NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 28 – Auditor General Edward Ouko wants the National Assembly to dismiss a petition seeking his removal from office, arguing it is malicious and a witch-hunt.
Ouko told the National Assembly Trade and Finance Committee which is looking into the petition in which he’s accused of gross misconduct, gross violation of the Constitution and failing to adhere to procurement rules in the purchase of an audit software, that the charges lack basis.
“It is unfortunate that the National Assembly has now been dragged into a malicious and sustained campaign by a group of individuals who have previously sought the removal of the respondent from office through various complaints and which, after inquiry by relevant investigative agencies, exonerated the respondent,” he stated through his lawyer Otiende Amollo.
Amollo said the speed in which the petition was transmitted from the Speaker’s office to the committee lent credence to the petition’s suspect intent.
“The petition was received by the Office of the Clerk on the February 14, 2017 and the Clerk and Speaker appear to have committed it to the committee without a preliminary inquiry as to whether it merits further consideration contrary to the law and the Standing Orders,” he contends.
Amollo said it is their argument that the petition’s legality should have been reviewed by the Office of the Clerk of the National Assembly and then subjected to an advisory committee.
He further argues that it contravenes the Petition to Parliament Act and the Standing Orders, as it fails to indicate that the subject matter has been dealt with by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
If the House committee finds that the allegations meet the required threshold to warrant Ouko vacates office, it will compile a report recommending that the National Assembly compels the President to form a tribunal to probe the Auditor-General.
Ouko, whose term ends in 2019 will be required to step aside to pave way for investigations into the alleged offences once a tribunal is set up.
Emmanuel Mwagoha, the petitioner seeking the removal of Ouko from office had a hard time making his case before the National Assembly’s Finance Committee.
Mwagoha came under immense scrutiny with some claiming that he was ‘gun for hire’ working at the whims of shadowy individuals to push for Ouko’s sacking.
The city-based lawyer had appeared before the committee with any documents to substantiate his claims and instead told the House team that they should look for the evidence themselves.
“I am not stating rhetoric, I am telling something I have seen and I have been privy to. I expect this committee to use its powers and find out what I am saying. I don’t know why, I am being vilified yet I am just pointing you to where you can get the information,” he said.
He accused Ouko of failing to prevent massive wastage of public funds as well as deal with nepotism in recruitment of staff at his office.
Among other grounds, the petitioner accused Ouko of wasting public funds by accumulating a Sh1 million telephone bill on his iPad while he was abroad. He told MPs Ouko frequently travelled out of the country for private reasons and has been managing the office remotely, resulting in high telephone and Internet costs.
“In one trip abroad in 2014, the telephone charges for his iPad line were in excess of Sh1 million. The amount was not captured as telephone expenditure in the accounting records,” Mwagoha alleged.
He further claimed that Ouko had been allocated five cars, some of which are used by his wife and daughter.
“These vehicles include two Mercedes Benz, a Toyota Land-Cruiser VX, a Volkswagen Passat and a Nissan Patrol. All the above vehicles have private plates,” Mwagoha said.
On this charge, MPs demanded to know the terms of the employment of the Auditor-General, with Butere MP Andrew Toposo and Seme MP James Nyikal – who have served as senior government officials – saying that it is not uncommon for senior officials to have vehicles assigned to their family members as part of the remuneration package.
Ouko is also accused of failing to submit reports to the President and Parliament at the end of financial years, giving a firm that was supposed to be auditing his office other work, and buying an office at a cost of Sh10 million in Mombasa, which was never used.