Government spending on travel hits Sh27 billion

Sunday November 12 2017

Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo. file PHOTO | NMG

Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo. file PHOTO | NMG 

By LYNET IGADWAH
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Counties and the national government blew over Sh27 billion on local and foreign trips in the year ended June, defying austerity drive that aimed to cut non-essential spending and free cash for development.

Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo says in her latest report that taxpayers spent Sh2.78 billion more on the trips in  the period to June, up from Sh24.9 billion in the previous year.

This came in a year when the Treasury directed that spending on non-essential items like travel should be cut by up to 30 per cent to free funds for projects in a business environment where State income was trailing targets.

The Sh27.7 billion spent on trips is equivalent to the cost of constructing the Thika Road Superhighway and is more than the Sh8.1 billion the government spent on upgrading primary schools and Sh14 billion for housing.

The Treasury has in the past four years struggled to implement austerity measures prompted by underperformance in revenue collection amid rising expenditure.

The Jubilee government early in 2014 announced a tight austerity programme aimed at cutting spending on non-core activities. This included pay cuts for top officials and curb in trips expenditure with only essential international travel allowed.

But the Controller of Budget report shows a substantial increase in the travel expenditure over the past four years.

The travel spend has jumped by Sh10 billion since 2014, representing a 58 per cent growth. Counties travel spend increased 55 per cent to Sh12.1 billion in the four years to June while that of the central government rose 66 per cent to Sh15.5 billion.

Six counties overshot their travel budgets while the National Assembly topped the list of institutions with highest expenditure on travel at Sh4.4billion.

Ms Odhiambo said Nakuru, Trans Nzoia, West Pokot, Migori, Baringo and Kisii counties surpassed approved allocations on travel.