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Fresh plot to remove Auditor General Edward Ouko

National Assembly Budget committee chairman Mutava Musyimi and Auditor General Edward Ouko in Parliament on October 13, 2016 / HEZRON NJOROGE

A fresh plot to remove Auditor General Edward Ouko has hit a snag, after two Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission commissioners refused to approve charges against the embattled inspector.

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It is understood that EACC detectives had been investigating a procurement issue in Ouko’s office since 2014 and decided last week to prefer charges against Ouko.

The decision was made after President Uhuru Kenyatta laughed off a plan by Ouko to go to New York to investigate how and where the Eurobond cash was banked. The President spoke on live TV during the State House Anti-Corruption and Accountability Summit.

President Kenyatta exclaimed: “And this one [Ouko] is saying he wants to go and investigate the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Ngai! You know, you sit back and you ask yourself, are we being serious in what we are doing? Or is it just a joke because the newspapers will report it?”

The accountability forum was hosted by State House last Thursday.

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Yesterday the Star learned that the investigations file on Ouko was fast-tracked late last week so that he can be charged in court this week.

According to the Constitution Ouko can only be removed from office through a tribunal. Ouko’s term ends in 2019, but if he is charged in court, he will have no option but step aside as demanded by the law.

“The commissioners raised questions regarding some facts and declined to approve them. Because of this the file cannot go to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Because of this development, some EACC officials decided the leak the information to the media,” said a senior government official aware of the goings on.

Some Jubilee officials are convinced that Ouko has been feeding Opposition chief Raila Odinga with restricted information concerning financial scandals in government.

However, those in the know say Ouko is apolitical and is hardly known to Raila, despite his 30 years’ experience in matters of auditing, accounting and investigations.

The ruling party’s disapproval of Ouko and Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo emerged late last year, when a section of MPs led by Majority leader Aden Duale accused the two of sabotaging the government from within.

Ouko was due to be charged this week with a number of offences relating to the procurement of computer software. The investigators accuse Ouko and some of his staff of inflating the cost from Sh22 million to Sh100 million.

According to documents seen by the Star, the EACC was going to charge Ouko with theft and improper procurement of the software.

Ouko has previously pleaded his innocence and insisted that the deal was aboveboard.

Those pushing for the Auditor-General’s removal also accuse him of incompetence and of being a stumbling block to the war on the misuse of public funds.

Ouko has been a marked man, having authored reports that show brazen misuse of public funds that have annoyed some Jubilee luminaries over the past two years.

In December last year, the Opposition said the there was a grand scheme by the government to either kick him out of office or water down his office’s powers in what Siaya Senator James Orengo termed “the unmaking of the Constitution”.

Aided by Ouko’s graft reports, Cord has sought to reinvent itself and have a go at the government after a poor show in the first two years of the Kenyatta Administration.

The Opposition’s uproar then stemmed from President Kenyatta’s move to assent to the Public Audit Bill, which considerably clips the Auditor-General’s powers, in December last year.

Among other things, the new law creates the office of a deputy auditor-general.

The law gives the executive, through the Public Service Commission, a form of control over the watchdog.

In February this year, a group of senators raised the alarm about sustained sharp criticism of Ouko by senior government officials, saying it was a deliberate attempt to whip up emotion among MPs to support the ouster bid.

The Finance Committee vice-chairman, Kajiado’s Peter Mositet, and Nyamira’s Mong’are Bwokong’o, among others, said the Auditor General office’s independence should be respected.

If Ouko is forced out, his deputy John Kagondu will take over as the next Auditor General.

Kagondu is a close friend of a number of senior Jubilee Party operatives.

On September 8 the Auditor General said that Sh215 billion from Eurobond proceeds has not been accounted for, two years after the government claimed the cash was allocated to ministries.

A Government audit report showed that, contrary to claims that the funds were allocated to some ministries, there is no proof of “receipt of expenditure” of this money anywhere in government.

“Investigations into the receipts, accounting and use of funds related to the Sovereign/Eurobond are still ongoing and the accuracy of the net proceeds of Sh215,469,626,035.75 is yet to be ascertained,” said Ouko.

The report narrowed down to the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, which was said to have received Sh11.2 billion, but whose officials failed to show any documentation of receipt and expenditure.

“The management has not provided any list of project(s) that were funded by the Eurobond proceeds. In the circumstance, it has not been possible to confirm how the Eurobond funds were utilised,” the report states.

As the country awaits the conclusion of the investigations, taxpayers will be required to pay Sh17.8 billion in interest payments on the Eurobond loan in the current financial year, the biggest single interest sum on a loan currently being serviced by the government.

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