Uhuru turns to God as Ruto starves office of budgeted funds

Kanze Dena addresses the media on challenges facing the office of former President Uhuru Kenyatta. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta is accusing the current administration of frustrating him.

The retired president says the Kenya Kwanza government is starving his office of cash and entitled benefits.

In a terse statement to the media on Monday, Uhuru's spokesperson Kanze Dena said the government has failed to allocate money and benefits allocated for the retired president's amounting to Sh1 billion forcing Uhuru to pay the office's bills from his own pocket.

Kanze said Uhuru pays for his own office, fuels his official car and caters for expenses such as foreign and domestic travels, car repairs, and needs of staff allocated to him.

The former president's spokesperson says Parliament allocated Sh655 million to the office in the financial year 2022/23 but only Sh28 million has been released.

“This is approximately 4.4 per cent of the total budget. This does not include payment of salaries and medical insurance. No other monies spent can be accounted for by this office,” said Dena.

She  said the budget for the financial year 2023/2024 was Sh503 million but no single coin has been released so far. 

“The year is ending without the office having any access to this allocation. The total amount for the two years that we have not had access to is approximately Sh1 billion," said Dena.

The office of the retired president has been allocated Sh579 million in the forthcoming 2024/2025 financial year. Dena says the office is waiting with bated breath to see if the allocation will be honoured.

“The lack of access to our rightful budget allocation has forced retired President Kenyatta to run the office from his pocket, paying for all the bills the office incurs contrary to normal implementation for any other public office," she said.

Dena also raised concerns with the use of verbal communication by State House to Kenyatta’s office on official issues or failure to respond to communication from the office.

On the issue of office for the retired President, Dena said the Kenya Kwanza administration, led by President William Ruto, has not committed to pay rent and other charges.

She dismissed assertions that Uhuru enjoys a fully furnished and maintained office of his choice provided by the government noting that since his exit from power, the issue of the office has not been resolved.

In a recent communication, Statehouse Spokesperson Hussein Mohammed said the former Head of State was allocated a fully furnished office in upmarket Nyari, Nairobi.

"There’s an office complex in Nyari that was used by President Mwai Kibaki. It is very well known that it is there and it is vacant and President (retired) Uhuru Kenyatta can use that office as and when he deems fit,” Mohammed said while giving an update of Dr Ruto's tour to the US.

However, Dena noted that the Nyari office was selected by the late President Mwai Kibaki as a suitable office space for himself.

She disclosed that Uhuru opted to use offices within his private home near State House and that a formal letter was written to State House requesting valuation of the office that was identified by Uhuru as suitable for him to carry out his duties.

“This is to confirm that the office of the retired President shall be domiciled in the premises located off Dennis Pritt Road,” reads a letter written by Kinuthia Mbugua, Kenyatta’s private secretary to State House Comptroller Katoo ole Metito.

The letter further reads:” We, therefore, request that you facilitate the Department of Lands and Housing to value the property to lease the property by the Office of the Third Retired President.” 

Dena claims Uhuru instead received communication via text message from the then in-charge of the Retired Presidents Office John Makumi who inquired about the rent estimates for the property in question. 

In one of the correspondence between Makumi and the office of the former president, the Ministry of Housing had given tentative estimates of Sh22.3 million to cater for rent, service charges and 20 car parking spaces.

According to Dena, the former president was sought to undertake international roles in his capacity as a former Head of State, including his appointment as a peace facilitator by the East African Community Heads of State during the 22nd Ordinary Meeting of East Africa Heads of State Summit held on July 22, 2023, in Arusha, Tanzania.

“These engagements necessitated the need to identify and establish a suitable office for the former president to enable him to carry out these roles and provide an operational base for various cadre of staff," said Uhuru's spokesperson.

“With no response from the State House and a lack of commitment to finalise on the issue of office space, he (Uhuru) identified a suitable office space and went ahead to furnish and equip it from his pocket,” she added.

Uhuru, Dena said, converted his servant quarters into offices.

In response to Government Spokesperson Isaac Mwaura's position on vehicles allocated to the former president, Dena noted that Uhuru was allocated two Toyota Land Cruisers, one Mercedes Benz for his personal use and a Range Rover that is being used by former First Lady Margaret Kenyatta.

She also noted that there are four Toyota Prados and a Subaru Forester used by the security detail of the former president and office operations.

“What the government spokesperson did not clarify is that the vehicles allocated to the former president for personal use are not new vehicles. They were part of his motorcade when he left Kasarani after the inauguration ceremony,” she said, adding:

“Statehouse then agreed that the former president uses these vehicles for transitional basis as it begins the process of procuring new vehicles as stipulated by the Presidential Benefits Act.”

The Act states that retired president should get two new vehicles of their choice which are replaceable every three years and that each car should have an engine capacity not exceeding 3000 CC.

The Act also states that a retired president is entitled to two four-wheel drive motor vehicles of their choice with an engine capacity of 3,400 CC and should be replaced every three years.

“After transition, a conversation on the purchase of vehicles as required by law commenced between the two offices. Identification of the vehicles was done, down to the colour of the said vehicle, then the conversation froze. To date, no discussions have been revived. We do not know if the cars were purchased or not,” said Dena.

At the same time, Dena noted that Dr Ruto’s government has not undertaken nor facilitated any repairs and maintenance of all the vehicles and that the fuel cards were blocked by State House in March 2023.

An internal memo written by Transport coordinator Patrick Kiongera to the administration department on March 31, 2023, indicates that the fuel cards issued from State House had been blocked effective immediately.

The communication on blocking fuel cards was made to a driver attached to Uhuru’s office through a telephone communication from State House garage team.

“The late President Daniel Arap Moi and the late President Mwai Kibaki were allocated and maintained more than double the number of vehicles than those allocated to the third retired President,” said Dena.

She however confirmed that Uhuru received a lump sum payment of Sh48 million as gratuity and that he receives his monthly allowances that are paid by the pension fund that is domiciled at Treasury. He also has medical cover.

Dena claimed that there has been unceremonious withdrawal and intimidation of staff, via phone calls at midnight and raised concerns over the government’s refusal to renew her contract as the director of communication and that of the office’s administrator George Kariuki.

According to Dena, Uhuru has done several trips but the government has only paid for his trip to Ethiopia on matters concerning the peace process and the one to Burundi which was the 11th Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the East African Community.

The office also took issue with reluctance by the government to give benefits to Ngina Kenyatta in her capacity as a former First Lady and surviving spouse of the late President Jomo Kenyatta.

The Act indicates that she is entitled to benefits amounting to 50 per cent of the late husband's pension. The drivers and security details who were withdrawn from Mama Ngina are yet to be reinstated.

“The three vehicles in Mama Ngina's possession were allocated to her by the late President Daniel Arap Moi and late President Mwai Kibaki during their respective tenures. The government of the day has not provided her with any vehicles,” said Dena.