National

LSK president declines Ruto appointment to task force auditing public debt

By |

The lawyer's lobby declined the appointment noting that auditing public debt is a role designated by the constitution to the office of Auditor General Nancy Gathungu.

President William Ruto was on Saturday dealt a blow when Law Society of Kenya (LSK) President Faith Odhiambo declined an appointment to the task force to audit public debt.

Ruto, under intense pressure following massive, deadly protests against the Finance Bill of 2024 and other ills committed under his Kenya Kwanza government's watch, selected and gazetted a task force to audit public debt within 90 days and report back to him.

In a statement released on Saturday, however, the lawyer's lobby declined the appointment noting that auditing public debt is a role designated by the constitution to the office of Auditor General Nancy Gathungu.

The LSK said it had taken note of Gazette Notice No. 8261 of 2024 forming a Presidential Taskforce on Forensic Audit of Public Debt and of its mandate to protect and assist the public and advise the government in all matters touching on, ancillary or incidental to the law, as well as to uphold the constitution and advance the rule of law and the administration of justice.

LSK Chief Executive Officer Florence Muturi noted in the statement that it was improper to squander scarce public resources by appointing a presidential task force to perform the duties of existing public offices.

"Article 229 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 establishes the office of the auditor general, whose mandate includes, among others, auditing public debt. Article 229(4) specifically requires the auditor general to audit the public debt within six months after the end of each financial year," she said.

Muturi said they also took note of the recent High Court decision underscoring the auditor general's role in public audit matters in a case between Ondago against Natembeya and 15 others in 2023 where the High Court while nullifying a task force created to audit County Government debts, asserted that the Governor could request the Auditor General to conduct a forensic audit.

"Taking cognisance of the provisions of Article 229 of the constitution and the interpretation of the said provisions by the court, it is our considered view that the establishment of the task force is unconstitutional. The mandate to audit public debt rests with the office of the auditor general."

In declining the appointment, Muturi clarified that the LSK resolved that neither its president nor members would take up appointments or participate in the activities of the task force.

"The LSK, under its statutory mandate, advises the president to refrain from usurping the constitutional powers of the auditor general through Executive Orders and allow the auditor general to perform her constitutional duties."

The LSK further underlined that the Office on Public Debt Management, headed by a Director-General at the Treasury and funded by public money, should provide details of public debt to the auditor General for forensic audit.

Odhiambo was to be a member of a team chaired by Nancy Onyango, with Luis G. Franceschi as the deputy, and Philip Kaikai, Shammah Kiteme, and Vincent Kimosop as the other members.

Reader comments

Live Updates