Margaret Nyakang'o: The golfer who daringly guards Kenya's public purse

Margaret Nyakang'o: The golfer who daringly guards Kenya's public purse

Controller of Budget Dr. Margaret Nyakang’o during a past address. PHOTO | COURTESY

On the fourth of December, 2019, Margaret Nyakang'o took her oath of office to become Kenya's new Controller of Budget (CoB) for the next eight years after emerging top from 15 applicants.

Taking the lectern while exhibiting a firm poise, she vowed to serve impartially adding that she will remain unswayed while administering her mandate.

"I will faithfully, impartially, fully and to the best of my knowledge perform the functions and exercise the powers devolving upon me without fear, favour, bias, affection or prejudice. So help me God," she said.

She was mandated with overseeing the withdrawal of funds from the public kitty and also overseeing the management of county expenditures.

Remaining true to the assertion, Nyakang'o, three years and a few months later, has reigned her office with verve vim and vigour with that single mission of guarding Kenya's public purse.

Despite heading a besieged office, the CoB has not shied away from exposing unscrupulous spending of public funds and even slammed the brakes on possible money-harvesting ponds for corrupt leaders.

Her style of leadership can be attributed to her highbrow qualifications and perhaps lifestyle.

A 'Backswing' fetish

Nyakang'o has a deeply-rooted love for golf having been an avid golfer even before rising to prominence.

Since 2013, she has served as the managing golfer of the year events at the Kenya Ladies Golf Union and also served as a voluntary member finance Committee at the Limuru Country Club as cited on her LinkedIn account.

Away from the golf courses, Nyakang'o has a penchant for integral systems within the public budget corridors which hails from her achievements in her areas of expertise.

She holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from the University of Liverpool which she attained in 2016 and also holds a Master of Business Administration – Strategic Management option from the University of Nairobi.

She is also a Certified Sacco professional which she earned at Strathmore University in 2006.

Nyakango served as a lecturer at KCA University Nairobi CBD Campus where she was teaching public sector finance and also served as the Director of Finance and Administration at the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) for a decade between November 2008 and October 2018.

In 2011, she joined the Office of the Controller of Budget as an Assistant Controller of Budget. This marked a significant milestone in her career as she took on a role that would shape her expertise in budget management.

Spanner in the works

Armed with a decade-long experience and an impenetrable ambition to serve with accountability, the CoB has been swift to sanitize the ills in the expenditure of public money, seeking to seal all loopholes that might warrant graft.

In 2021, she released a report detailing how incessant borrowing pushed the nation's debt to Ksh.7.28 trillion from Ksh.6.05 trillion, warning that the nation was staring at a debt crisis.

Nyakang'o intimated that former President Kenyatta’s administration borrowed an average of Ksh.3.37 billion every day in 2020, posing an increase of 20.5 per cent in just one year.

The then Treasury Cabinet Secretary (CS) Ukur Yatani cited the inflated borrowing to the COVID-19 pandemic which led to slow revenue performance and the borrowing would help fight the virus and finance other government operations.

Later in August 2022 right after the General Elections, she slammed the brakes on what could have been a lavish start to the new county governments.

Nyakang'o questioned why county governments want to spend around Ksh.20 million to swear in their governors among them Nairobi, Homa Bay, Trans Nzoia and Machakos for an event that will run for a maximum of four hours.

The move attracted a pat on Nyakang'o's back including one from top Citizen TV Journalist Yvonne Okwara who said "I thank Mary for saying no to needless expenses. Kanyagia hapo hapo madam" while giving her take on the Newsgang show.

In 2023, the CoB went on an exposé run as well citing expenditure breaches on public funds which even saw her being arrested in a suspected political witchhunt.

In September, she released a report showing that the country's limited financial crisis is being exacerbated by government officials and their delegations' domestic and international travel budgets.

According to the report, state officials spent Ksh.20 billion on both domestic and international travel. The National Assembly was the biggest spender spending Ksh.4.8 billion on travel within the country and an additional Ksh.1.5 billion abroad.

The hospitality sector also accounted for Ksh.8.6 billion, with the Office of the President leading the way with 2.34 per cent and the polling organisation IEBC coming in second with Ksh. 2.1 billion.

Subsequently, in the CoB's review of the implementation of county budgets for the year 2022/2023, counties were seen to continue to surpass the set limit of expenditure on wages and benefits for their personnel.

The report revealed that in the year under review, counties spent 41.5% of the realised revenues of Ksh.466.01 billion, a figure above the recommended 35% of total revenues.

The report also flagged what it termed as the flouting of regulations on foreign travel by the counties. According to regulations, a county delegation travelling outside the country should not have more than seven people including staff.

A good number of counties have disregarded this and sent out delegations of upto 50 people per trip, in most cases those travelling in the large delegations coming from the county assemblies.

In what Kenyans read mischief in, Nyakang'o was controversially arrested on December 5 over a Sacco membership she abandoned as soon as she was appointed as the Controller of Budget.

While narrating her 7-hour night trip from Nairobi to Mombasa ordeal, she says she was required to write a statement and the DCI officers who had apprehended her said that they were under instructions to take her to Mombasa.

She was accused of conspiracy to defraud and operating a Sacco without a licence among other charges, and is presently out on a cash bail of Ksh.500,000.

The criminal matter was shortly after stopped after Magistrate Alex Ithuku at the Mombasa law court was told that there is a High Court order issued stopping her prosecution.

The matter is set to be mentioned on May 29, 2024.

Her recent debacle with the government saw her questioning how the government spent Ksh.51 billion in six months without approval from her office and the National Assembly.

Among the expenditures incurred under this provision are the renovations at State House which show that Ksh.700 million was accessed for the construction of a modern presidential dais.

The Office of Controller of Budget is an independent office overseeing the implementation of the national and county government budgets.


Citizen Digital Margaret Nyakang'o Controller of Budget

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