The Auditor General’s recently published audits of national government ministries, state institutions and county governments need to be improved to better communicate to the public. While auditing is the Auditor’s constitutional mandate, poor communication of its contents make the reports prone to political machinations and failure to capture its true meaning and message.
Communication lies at the core of effective messaging. It can make a whole difference as it would assist citizens to read and understand the audit. For scrutiny by relevant individuals and institutions to be effective, the right questions must be asked and answered.
Currently, when one reads the audits it is hard to identify the areas where some pilferage took place even after counter-checking the figures as indicated in the summaries. Simple addition of the specific amounts does not guarantee you are correct either.
For instance, if you want to check the unsupported Ksh 66.7 billion expenditure through specific ministries, arriving at that figure is not only tiring, but also likely to be inaccurate. This means the wording of the report is not clear to easily inform the reader.
The Auditor General also has to deliver reports in good time as the Constitution stipulates. Article 229 (4) states that the Auditor should within six months after the end of each financial year, audit various public institutions to confirm whether or not public money has been lawfully used and in an effective way.
This auditing process is part of the general budgeting process that takes place every financial year. It is the final of the four stages, the others being formulation, amendment/approval and implementation. Normally, the audit reports should have been published by last December. Failure to publish the report time, hinders Parliamentarians and public ability to assess financial management of the ministries and determine allocations for the next financial year.
The audit relates to 11 key issues: accounting framework, overall audit, audit of revenue and expenditure statements, unsupported expenditure, excess expenditure, pending bills, management of imprests, maintenance of bank and cash accounts, statement of assets and maintenance of accounting records.
Each area shows how the financial systems of a public office are being managed and those who fail to do it prudently should be punished. Such punishment could be lower budgetary allocations than what they wanted as they have failed to undertake due diligence.
For example, pending bills refers to cases where services and goods are rendered but payments were not honoured during the committed financial year. Such a transaction carried over to a new financial year might take monies for other developments. Kenya operates a cash system, meaning that it is only when cash is received that commitment is done. It therefore behooves the office holders to pay during the stipulated time.
Regardless, of the late submission of the Auditor General’s report, Parliament must debate its findings and take appropriate actions.