Home Budgets How to Read and Interpret the Reports by the Auditor General (Part 1)

How to Read and Interpret the Reports by the Auditor General (Part 1)

This is part 1 of how to read and interpret the reports by the auditor general. The focus is on the different terms and opinions that the Auditor General employs in the audit reports. The terms apply, with the necessary changes, to both the national and the county governments.

This guide should enable any person to understand and analyse the audit reports from the Auditor General for any arm of the National or the County Government and their respective agencies or bodies. (For example, the Executive, Parliament, Judiciary, County Executive, County Assembly, Independent Commissions and Offices, Political Parties, etc.)

The definition of terms and opinions are courtesy of IBP Kenya. Unless indicated otherwise, the photo examples are from the Nairobi County Government audit report for the FY 2014/15.

See Also: How to Read and Interpret the Reports by the Auditor General (Part 2)


‪Unsupported Expenditure

A government ministry (or county department) reports an expenditure. However, it does not provide enough documentation to show for sure that-

  • the spending was authorized (by the legislature), or
  • it received goods and services for the expenditure.

This is called “unsupported expenditure”. The key information here is the absence of supporting documentation.

unsupported expenditure
Example of unsupported expenditure.

Excess Expenditure

The government ministry (or county department) overspends its budget without authorization (of parliament or county assembly).

A ministry (or county department) has a “vote” of spending, that is when Parliament (or County Assembly) tells them how much they can spend. If the government ministry or department exceeds the vote without proper authorization, then it becomes an “excess expenditure” or “excess vote”.

The key information here is spending more than the allocated money without authorization. Here is an example of excess expenditure.

excess expenditure.
Example of excess expenditure.

Pending Bills

They arise when a government ministry (or county department) commits to pay for goods and services, and receives those goods and services, but does not settle the bill within that financial year.

Pending bills are a problem because the (national or county) government works on a single-year budget and a ministry (or county department) must have cash and book expenditure when it happens. All money that is not spent is returned to the Treasury (or to the County Revenue Fund in case of a County Government) to be budgeted afresh the next year. There is no basis for carrying forward commitments.

pending bills
An example of pending bills.


These are cash advances when the (national or county) government officers travel or attend meetings that they must return or account for with proper records. They are often not returned or accounted for. Sometimes, officers who have failed to account for them are allowed to obtain new imprests, which is against government policy.

Example of imprests.


What opinion does the Auditor General have on financial statements (or audit reports)?

Unqualified certificate (Unqualified Opinion)

This means that no problems exist with the documentation that the auditor general reviews and the government ministry (or county government department) has managed funds properly.

unqualified certificate
Example of unqualified opinion/certificate (from the national government audit report FY 2012/13).

Qualified Opinion

A qualified opinion occurs when the auditor has found some problems but they are not pervasive (widespread or persistent). The auditor received all the information required for audit, but the audit reveals some gaps in adherence to procedures and budgets.

qualified opinion
Example of qualified opinion (from the national government audit report FY 2012/13).

Adverse Opinion

An adverse opinion occurs when the auditor general is able to review the ministry’s documentation, but the problems found are pervasive and will require considerable changes to rectify. This kind of finding should be of concern to oversight bodies.

adverse opinion
Example of adverse opinion (from the national government audit report FY 2012/13).


A disclaimer is when the auditor is unable to review fully the ministry’s documentation because there is a substantial amount of information that the ministry has not made available.

In such a case, the auditor feels unable to determine whether the situation is qualified or adverse because the paperwork is not adequate. This is a serious lapse in compliance and should be of concern to oversight bodies.

For a disclaimer, the record keeping is so bad the auditor cannot give an opinion.

Disclaimer opinion
Example of a disclaimer opinion (from Nairobi County Audit Report FY 2014/15)

Summary of  the audit opinions

Below is a summary of the unqualified, qualified, and the adverse opinion on the FY 2013/14 national government audit report.

(Some of the terms used here like ‘ministry’ are for explanatory purposes. You can apply this guide to any audit report from the Auditor General under Article 229 of the Kenyan Constitution).

George Githinji
George Githinji
Githinji is passionate about devolved governance and public finance. He also comments on topical issues in Kenyan politics and society. In addition, he manages the @UgatuziKenya platform.

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  1. It is indeed good that you inform the people the story behind the terminologies. When a media house headline screams 'Only 1 % of expediture is legal' we see an outcry from the people yet its not the fact.

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