The government Monday approved the use of over Sh40 billion to cushion needy households in urban areas from economic shocks following reduced activity in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The cash will be from funds raised from austerity measures effected at both national and county government levels, including cutting of international and domestic travel, and some Sh2 billion recovered proceeds of corruption.
In the 2018/19 financial year, government ministries, agencies, and departments blew up Sh17.2 billion on domestic and foreign trips.
Of this, the presidency, comprising President Uhuru Kenyatta's office, Deputy President William Ruto and the Cabinet office, spent Sh704. 4 million on local travel and Sh196.6 million on foreign trips.
All the 47 devolved units, over the same time, spent Sh16.2 billion on foreign and local travel while Parliament alone gobbled up Sh6.6 billion on domestic and foreign trips, making the legislature the single-largest spender on travel.
The economic package was announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta as the government seeks to block the movement of people outside the Nairobi metropolitan area as well as Kilifi, Mombasa and Kwale counties.
“As we scale up our interventions against the current health pandemic, I direct the National Treasury to utilise the Sh2 billion of already recovered corruption proceeds to support the most vulnerable members of our society, especially the needy in our urban areas. Our fight in this area continues,” President Kenyatta told the nation from State House, Nairobi.
As of Monday, there were 158 confirmed cases in Kenya with six deaths.
Without giving details, President Kenyatta applauded State and public officers whom he said has followed his lead to take voluntary pay cuts in support of the fight against the highly contagious virus.
On March 25, President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto said they will take an 80 per cent pay cut, as the Cabinet Secretaries agreed to slash 30 per cent off their pay.
The Chief Administrative Secretaries, the men and women President Kenyatta introduced to his administration in 2017 to come between the ministers and the Principal Secretaries, will take a 30 per cent pay cut, while the PSs, the ministry’s chief accountants, will take a 20 per cent pay cut.
Since then, governors and other state officers have announced varying percentages of pay cuts as the country rallies together to fight the virus.
“Every shilling we save in salaries and allowances is one we shall use towards face masks, medical supplies and specialised equipment, to support the most vulnerable members of our society through provision of water and food items and in support of any other initiatives needed by our Nation in this war against Covid-19,” he said, directing the newly-established Nairobi Metropolitan Service to expand their provision of free water to all our informal settlements.
The Head of State also thanked companies that have offered help towards the fight against the virus.
On Thursday last week, Narendra Raval Guru was the first Kenyan billionaire to support the emergency fund after donating Sh100 million worth of oxygen to all government hospitals.
On Monday, Co-operative Bank of Kenya donated Sh100 million to the country's coronavirus management kitty.
The top-tier lender said the contribution is expected to support the sourcing of critical life-saving medical supplies and equipment, especially ventilators.
“In sharing the heavy burden of the current pandemic which has led to lost opportunities, I applaud the members of our society who have risen to the call for support and shared in the bounty of their blessings with their fellow countrymen, helping many to cope with the fears weighing on their minds to provide a decent living for their families,” the President said.
He noted the efforts by landlords who had reduced their monthly rent in an effort to share in the pain with Kenyans “to help provide a roof over the heads of our vulnerable brothers and sisters.”
At the same time, the President announced that over Sh2 billion will be paid to Kenyan artists this year.
A total of Sh200 million every month, the President announced, will be paid to musicians through the government system as well as other platforms.
“This translates to over Sh2 billion going into the pockets of Kenyan artists. These payments will begin this week in line with the pledge I made in January,” the President announced.
Similarly, the President directed the Sports ministry to provide an additional Sh100 million from the Sports Fund to artists, actors and musicians, during the period of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Molo MP Kuria Kimani supported the initiatives, but called for the complete removal of the income tax, subsidising basic food items, as well as the making the 10 per cent rental income only payable by tenants in three years.