Nairobi, Kenya—The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) is alarmed by the attacks on independent fiscal institutions, which seriously threaten democracy, accountability, and the rule of law in the country and the essence of our sovereignty. 

The current regime has taken over from where the Jubilee administration left off. It is perpetrating egregious violations and political manipulations of independent fiscal institutions, outrightly disregarding the constitutional mandates of the offices of the Controller of Budget (CoB), Auditor General (OAG), Commission on Revenue Allocations (CRA) and the Salaries and Remuneration Commissions (SRC).

Lest we forget

The demand for independent regulatory and oversight institution offices in Kenya was, without a shadow of a doubt, in response to the rise of widespread authoritarian leadership, heightened corruption, and the mismanagement of public resources by the previous governments. 

These independent institutions and offices are embedded in our Constitution. They are expected to enhance democracy and accountability by monitoring and overseeing government actions that have a bearing on public resources.

Establishing these institutions in the Constitution was meant to signal their importance and ensure they were not tinkered with for political expediency. 

Why the attack

On numerous occasions, the independent fiscal institutions within their mandate have sounded an alarm of mismanagement of public monies and flaunting various public finance management laws by different government entities, including the Executive. 

These range from a mockery of the budget process, which has seen payments made to non-existing projects at both national and counties, overpriced projects occasioning loss of public funds, abandonment of projects initiated by previous governments, budgeted corruption, reallocation of development expenditure to luxurious and non-essential items, limited spending and absorption of the development budgets, extravagant foreign and domestic travels by particularly members of the county assemblies, ballooned wage bill and reckless borrowing that has seen the country's public debt surpass the stipulated Sh10 trillion ceiling, among others. 

As raised by the independent fiscal institutions, the above issues are of grave magnitude. They should be treated with the utmost seriousness by any concerned Kenyan and more so by the parliament and Executive, who are obligated to safeguard the rule of law. 

Further, if unchecked, these issues will cause the country to plunge into bankruptcy and denial of essential services by the government to the taxpayers.

Systemic assaults

The Office of the Auditor General, a beacon of financial scrutiny, faces systemic assaults. There are attempts to dilute the office's independence through the amendment of the Public Audit Act (PAA). Further, the government-sponsored Public Audit (Amendment) Bill 2024 before parliament, if passed, will remove the Auditor-General as the head of the national audit office. This appears to be a subtle attempt to conceal the damming loss of public funds that the Auditor-General has been revealing through official reports or media statements.

The December 2023 abduction of Margaret Nyakang'o, the CoB, and her subsequent coerced journey to Mombasa reeked of intimidation tactics employed to stifle dissent and muzzle fiscal watchdogs. Before her arrest, Nyakang'o had exposed financial rot within this regime. While appearing before the National Dialogue Committee, the CoB questioned government taxation policy and revealed a budgeted corruption scheme. She said that state officers' salaries had been over budgeted to over Sh1.5 billion, demanding the relocation of the money. The matter fizzled out, and we highly doubt if the culpable officers faced disciplinary action.

Like the CoB, the office of the Auditor-General is being targeted for exposing the damning loss of public money. In January this year, the office's head, Nancy Gathungu, lifted the lid on the Sh67 billion loss of public funds through fake payments made to pensioners whose identity is also in question. Gathungu showed how top civil servants manning the scheme were, among others, using duplicate IDs to enroll fake claimants, occasioning the loss of taxpayers' money. No tangible action has been taken to bring the culprits to account. This matters because public funds were lost with no consequences.

Call to action

Independent institutions, such as the OAG, CoB, CRA, and SRC, are critical in ensuring the checks and balances necessary for a functioning democracy. The independent fiscal institutions serve as bulwarks against abuse of power, corruption, and impunity, and their autonomy must be respected and protected at all costs. 

We demand that:

  1. Political attacks—through laws and smear campaigns— aimed at clipping these offices' powers and making them subservient to the Executive must stop.
  2. The Executive and parliament must uphold the independence of these institutions and refrain from any actions, including underfunding and disregarding their decisions, that may undermine their credibility or effectiveness. 
  3. Every citizen must demand accountability and adherence to constitutional mandates by all the three arms of government.