In the last few weeks, public notices have with growing frequency been appearing in newspapers announcing delayed company results or events because their books of accounts have not been certified by the Auditor-General. Companies ranging from Kenya Power, Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) and East African Portland Cement Company all find themselves in a straightjacket.
The common denominator here has been the vacuum at the Auditor-General’s office, which arose from the retirement of Mr Edward Ouko. Since the days of the Kibaki Administration, the Auditor-General has been counter-signing books of accounts of State corporations, including those listed at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE).
After the Public Service Commission said it had failed to get the right man out of the 17 applicants, the corporations have been thrown into disarray.
For instance, all of them appear destined to hold annual general meetings next year, risking further penalties from the Capital Markets Authority and the NSE for non-compliance with bourse rules and regulations.
This is a clear illustration of how the failure to make an appointment on time can spill over to and adversely affect other spheres of the economy.
Now the Presidency has re-advertised the job but unless the public is clearly told what was wrong with the other applicants, they can only second-guess what the government is looking for. Are we talking technical qualifications or integrity issues? Are we talking gender or ethnic balancing?
It is obviously important here we get some clarity to assure everyone — especially the new applicants — that the government is not looking for a pliant individual. It is important to get this out of the way given the massive leaks that have been reported in government institutions and agencies.
The highest qualifications for the job remain integrity and the relevant technical skills. It is not like these characteristics are that rare in this country. Kenya has always had auditors-general since independence and it is not clear why the current administration is experiencing difficulties find the right candidate.
The government has given candidates two weeks to file applications. It is our hope that the process will be transparent, even as we wait to be told why the previous process came acropper. It is time that those involved in the entire process undo the mess the delay has caused.