Kenya’s newly appointed Auditor-General, Nancy Gathungu, is worth Sh30.89 million, according to disclosures to a parliamentary committee that vetted her for the job.
Ms Gathungu told the National Assembly committee on Finance and National Planning that she has assets worth Sh40.42 million and liabilities of Sh9.33 million without offering a breakdown. The committee tabled its report yesterday approving her appointment by the President.
Lawmakers rejected memoranda by several lobby groups that had opposed Ms Gathungu’s nomination, saying that they were not made under oath and others were submitted after conclusion of her vetting last Friday.
She is betting on overhauling the State procurement and payments system that is easily tampered with and is central to halting the looting of billions of shillings through fictitious and inflated tenders.
Her net worth pales in comparison to individuals recently vetted for top State jobs, a majority of whom have assets in excess of Sh150 million.
Heath Cabinet secretary Mutahi Kagwe is worth Sh667.8 million while Treasury CS Ukur Yatani declared Sh295 million wealth.
Former Cabinet minister Esther Murugi Mathenge said she was worth Sh667.8 million while Treasury CS Ukur Yatani declared Sh295 million wealth.
Former Cabinet minister Esther Murugi Mathenge said she was worth Sh320 million while seeking to join the National Land Commission (NLC) while lawyer Gershom Otachi quoted properties of Sh200 million during the same interviews.
The recently appointed Controller of Budget, Margaret Nyakango, also declared a modest wealth of Sh68 million relative to other public servants freshly tapped for State jobs.
Ms Nyakango’s wealth estimate included half of the value of her family home, which she acquired through a mortgage.
Wealth declaration for those seeking top public office, which a constitutional requirement, is seen as one of the tools for the fight against corruption. The Public Officer Ethics Act requires all State officials together with their spouses and dependent children under the age of 18 to submit their wealth declaration forms once every two years. The full financial disclosure enables the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to detect and prevent corruption when top public servants are serving in office.
Ms Gathungu, now the director of quality assurance at the Auditor-General’s office, will serve for eight years, taking over from Edward Ouko, an accountant appointed in 2011. Her approval will now hand the public finance oversight role to women given that Ms Nyakango replaced Agnes Odhiambo as Controller of Budget last December.
Kenya has been without a substantive Auditor-General after Mr Ouko, the first person to occupy the office under the 2010 Constitution, retired in August last year when his eight-year non-renewable term expired.
Ms Gathungu told Parliament she would push for implementation of MPs’ recommendations on audit reports whose sanctions, including prosecutions and surcharge for lost funds, have in recent years not implemented.
“She will also encourage the use of e-procurement platforms in order to reduce cases of embezzlement of public funds,” the committee said in the report.
Recommendations from the audit office in 2014 for reforming that system were ignored by Parliament and never implemented.
She will have to push Parliament to tackle the enabler of the theft: faulty procurement and payments systems as well as officials and companies named in the phony contracts.
Audited reports for the 2018/2019 financial year were due by December last year but the exit of Mr Ouko in August meant that he could not conclude the work.
The reports are not only crucial for assessing whether taxpayers got value for their money but also form the basis for county allocations. The Treasury bases allocations to counties on last audited revenue accounts approved by Parliament.
Mr Ouko in the past said he found a backlog of about four years when he joined the office and that it took him nearly his entire term to come closer to reporting within the six-month deadline required by law.
“By the time I was leaving office we were ready to report within the six months required by the Constitution. The office was to report by December 31 but because there is no Auditor-General, a lot of work is in abeyance,” said Mr Ouko.
The absence of a substantive Auditor-General has delayed the review and release of financial statements of State agencies such as the Central Bank of Kenya, the Capital Markets Authority, the EACC, KenGen and Kenya Power. The State corporations must secure approval for reporting their results from the Auditor-General, delaying dividend pay.
Mr Ouko warned that a 10- month gap may have provided a window for graft in government.