Ministers get Sh1bn more for trips, entertainment days to year end

Monday June 19 2017

Kenya's Cabinet secretary for the National Treasury, Henry Rotich, at the Treasury Building in Nairobi on June 13, 2013 on his way to Parliament to present the 2013/2014 Budget. Photo/SALATON NJAU/FILE

National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich. He had issued a circular to accounting officers in all ministries asking them to cut non-essential budget items like travel and motor vehicle maintenance. FILE PHOTO | SALATON NJAU |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By EDWIN MUTAI
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The Treasury sought an additional Sh1 billion for foreign travel and entertainment through the second mini-budget tabled in Parliament despite a government directive requiring deep cuts on non-essential budget items like trips.

Parliament’s Budget and Appropriations Committee (BAC) says in a report that an additional Sh55 million was voted for foreign travel and Sh472 million for hospitality across ministries, just days to the end of the financial year on June 30.

This comes amid an earlier Treasury circular to accounting officers in all ministries asking them to cut non-essential budget items like travel, motor vehicle maintenance and conferencing to the bare minimum in an effort to plug holes caused by revenue shortfalls.

“This goes against the directive the National Treasury issued last year stating that austerity measures should be applied to the items mentioned above,” BAC noted in its report on the second supplementary budget tabled in Parliament.

IGNORED

Previous announcements of expenditure cuts by the government have not yielded much, having been largely ignored by officials.

Besides, the Cabinet secretary has little control over spending by county governments, which have been the most notorious for trips that cost taxpayers millions of shillings.

The Parliamentary Service Commission, an independent body that manages salaries and other remuneration perks for MPs, usually records the highest expenditure on domestic travel.

Data from the Controller of Budget shows that spending on foreign travel rose to Sh3.5 billion in the six months to December, up from Sh1.5 billion in the same period last year — representing growth of more than double.

Entertainment spending grew from Sh1.7 billion to Sh2 billion in the period under review.

FREQUENT

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s office and that of his deputy, William Ruto, have also defied the Treasury directive requiring them to cut travel spending.

The Presidency spent Sh130 million on foreign travel in the six months to December, up from Sh112 million in a similar period the previous year.

Mr Kenyatta has been forced to defend his frequent travel abroad, with his office saying the trips resulted in mega deals for Kenya.

A Nation analysis revealed President Kenyatta had been on 43 government trips since he took office in May 2013 to December 2015, while his predecessor Mwai Kibaki made just 33 in 10 years in power.

The additional Sh1 billion for travel and entertainment comes as the government revised its KRA tax target from Sh1.33 billion for the year ending this month to Sh1.26 billion.