The Treasury has asked the National Assembly to approve the allocation of Sh700 million for the purchase of a building to house an office for retired President Mwai Kibaki, the Nation can reveal.
The allocation is contained in the Supplementary Budget estimates tabled in the National Assembly last Tuesday and whose approval is on the Order Paper for this coming Tuesday.
MPs are understood to have discovered the allocation as they questioned the failure by the Treasury to allocate the Sh5.4 billion Constituency Development Fund money for the remaining part of the 2012/2013 financial year.
“What they had attempted to do, through the Supplementary Estimates which were tabled on Tuesday, is to reallocate CDF money to other activities, which included building an office (for) Sh700 million for retired President Kibaki among others,” an MP familiar with the matter said.
He did not wish to be named because of the nature of the allocation and the fact that the matter is yet to be explained by the Treasury Cabinet Secretary, who is scheduled to meet the Budget and Appropriations Committee on Tuesday morning.
The allocation for the building is tucked under development expenditure for the Cabinet Office in the Supplementary Budget estimates books.
The Parliamentary Budget Office also noted the allocation of Sh700 million to the Cabinet Office to buy a building as among the salient issues in its report on the Supplementary estimates.
In the initial estimates for the 2012/2013 financial year, the Cabinet Office had asked for Sh160 million.
This figure grew to Sh860 million in the Supplementary Budget and the Sh700 million difference would be the allocation for the retired president’s office.
Headed by Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kimemia, the Cabinet Office is charged with organising the affairs of the Cabinet such as meetings, the agenda and the implementation of its projects.
Its primary mandate is to organise and coordinate Government business.
Mr Kimemia told the Sunday Nation the allocation is necessary because under the Presidential Retirement Benefits Act President Kibaki assented to before his retirement, he is supposed to have an office and staff.
“He is supposed to have an office under the law. He is entitled to an office and staff, a full secretariat to manage his programmes the same way we did with former President Moi,” said Mr Kimemia on the phone.
“I thought you would say (Sh700 million) is too little. How much can you get a building for? We are set to buy him a building. We have to go to the market to advertise and we have got to pay staff and to buy him furniture because we don’t have a building yet.”
Mr Kimemia said the government has been looking for an office for the former president within Nairobi and all the available ones cost more than Sh1 billion.
When the former Prime Minister needed an office, the former coalition government acquired the then Shell/BP building at a cost of Sh700 million and then refurbished it.
It is now the office of the Deputy President and also has various other government agencies as tenants.
Mr Kimemia said the current allocation would be used to acquire the building, put in the security apparatus such as surveillance equipment plus purchasing the furniture and then to hire the staff the retired president needs as per the Act.
It would be a one-off payment, he said, and running the affairs of Heads of State who retire in the future would in fact become more expensive.
“If you are buying a house in a place like Muthaiga or Gigiri, in that general area, a normal residential house would cost over Sh100 million. Here we are talking about an office complex for the ex-president, for his team, for his programmes. It’s an office, not a house,” Mr Kimemia said.
He said there had been concerns over how long it has taken to get the retired president his entitlements but he was glad that now that the Supplementary Budget is in place, that money would be available.
To put the Sh700 million figure in context, the Budget for the coming financial year contains an allocation of Sh700 million to enable free access to all health centres and dispensaries in the country.
For Sh100 million more, Treasury will upgrade all national secondary schools.
In his Budget Statement to the National Assembly last Thursday, the Treasury Cabinet Secretary announced that Sh522 million would be used for the recruitment of 30 community nurses and 10 community health workers, for every constituency to provide quality health care services to Kenyans.
Mr Henry Rotich also allocated Sh770 million for doubling coverage of those with extreme disability from 14,700 to 29,400 households.
Last Wednesday, MPs were about to begin the debate and eventual approval of the Supplementary Budget estimates when Mr John Mbadi (Suba, ODM) suggested that the Budget and Appropriations Committee ought to scrutinise them first.
“Some time in the 10th Parliament, the Supplementary Budget was brought here and there was a typing error. We don’t want to be embarrassed again,” he said when the House voted to postpone the approval to Tuesday.
That scrutiny is first on the Budget Committee, which is scheduled to meet Mr Rotich at the Small Dining Room in Parliament at 9 am on Tuesday.
If MPs approve the allocation to either put up or buy the building, it will add to the many benefits enjoyed by the retired president. MPs are bound to ask Mr Rotich why this spending is necessary given that Mr Kibaki has not taken on any responsibilities since his retirement.
Mr Kibaki also has a recently completed residence at Mweiga in Nyeri that is perceived to be his retirement home. The house has an office wing.
He was also given a number of generous gifts from public finances when he retired; a petrol station by the National Oil Corporation, four fish ponds by the Fisheries ministry, an aquarium, two dairy cows and four Boran bulls and a borehole to be sunk in Mweiga by the National Youth Service.
The University of Nairobi also pledged to establish a library at President Kibaki’s home. The university will further give a copy of each of the books it has published to President Kibaki, Higher Education PS Crispus Kiamba said at a luncheon held at State House on April 5.
Mr Kibaki’s entitlements are Sh195,000 in monthly fuel allowances or 15 per cent of his last salary of Sh1.3 million a month and a house allowance of Sh299,000, equivalent to 23 per cent of what he used to earn.
The Act also stated that his lumpsum payment would be one year’s salary per term served, which makes that at least Sh25.2 million. Former First Lady Lucy Kibaki is entitled to a diplomatic passport.