NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 1 – The accountants’ regulatory body has made a strong defence of Auditor-General Edward Ouko amid allegations contained in a petition seeking his removal from office.
The Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK), which is the body mandated to regulate accountants, absolved Ouko of complicity in the irregular appointment of Baker Tilly Merali to audit the accounts of the Office of the Auditor General.
Ouko admitted on Tuesday to giving Baker Tilly Merali, who had been appointed by Parliament to audit the accounts of the Kenya National Audit Office, a separate job to assess internal controls.
In 2015, ICPAK admitted to partnering with the Kenya National Audit Office in commissioning audit firm Baker Tilly Merali to develop the guidelines that will help enhance the capacity of small and medium firms to audit the public sector and donor-funded projects.
Vice Chairman Fernandes Barasa said they looked at the engagement and found that there was no breach or conflict of interest as had been alleged by the petitioner.
“Our governance and standards people probed the contracts and found that one was between the Parliamentary Service Commission and Barker Tilly Merali and the other was between KENAO and Baker Tilly Meralli. We also found that, in the first instance Merali was contracted by Parliament to audit KENAO while the KENAO procured the services of Meralli to come up a framework.”
Barasa however urged the MPs to come up with a substantive law which will bar independent commissions from entering into such contracts, saying even though they met international accounting standards, the law requires review to align it with the Kenyan situation.
The National Assembly has in the meantime granted the Finance and Trade Committee a 21 day extension to continue probing alleged gross misconduct by the Auditor-General.
Meanwhile, governance and accountability lobby groups which appeared before the House team told of a well calculated ‘sinister and mischievous’ attempt to coerce Ouko out of office.
The NGOs led by Houghton Irungu (Society of International Development) and Samuel Kimeu (Transparency International – Kenya) urged the MPs to dismiss the petition as a ‘waste of parliamentary time.’
They said the petition was inadmissible as it was evident from the petitioner’s submissions that it was incomplete.
Irungu said the petitioner Emmanuel Mwagonah, a city based lawyer, was being insincere and misleading the MPs when he claimed that Ouko has not regularly filed mandatory annual reports with Houses of Parliament and President.
He said Ouko has on several occasions complained that his office is starved of funds and is not adequately staffed which affects it capacity to submit audit reports on the Central Government and 47 County Governments.
“The Auditor-General is required to audit all the 47 counties and the National Government, together with other public entities and donor-funded projects. The office has about 700 staff and is tasked with auditing about 1,466 public entities.”
“Quite often, inadequate personnel has seen the office fail to submit the reports to the Parliament within the constitutional timeline of December 31,” the lobby groups explained.