Budget report praises Kiambu for minimal spending on foreign trips

Kiambu Governor Kimani Wamatangi before the Senate Committee on County Public Investments and Special Funds at Parliament on August 21, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Kiambu Governor Kimani Wamatangi and his executive team did not undertake any foreign trips during the first quarter of the 2023/2024 financial year, thereby saving millions of taxpayers’ money, according to the latest report by Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakango.

However, during the period (July to September 2023), expenditure on domestic travel amounted to Sh97.01 million.

It comprised Sh85.28 million spent by MCAs and Sh11.73 million by the county executive.

Dr Nyakango’s report on the status of budget implementation by counties indicated that, unlike most counties where millions were spent on foreign travel by governors and ministers who also earned hefty perks, the county executive of Kiambu incurred just Sh883,037.

The report states that Sh789,372 was used to sponsor a team to the International Karate Championship games in Berlin, Germany.

Another Sh93,665 catered for a team from the Transport Department that visited Tanzania and Rwanda on a mission to study Bus Operation Policy and management in the Nairobi Metropolitan Area. Dr. Wamatangi, his deputy Rosemary Kirika, and ministers made no trips, the report says.

“During the period, expenditure on foreign travel amounted to Sh0.79 million, which was spent by the county executive,” says the report.

The sponsored Karate team, Dragons Karate Academy, returned with a haul of trophies and medals, securing four trophies in kumite (sparring) and three medals in kata (forms).

They have now set their sights firmly on the upcoming United Kingdom National Championship.

Their performance earned them the top overall spot and a coveted invitation to the prestigious International Funakoshi Karate Championship in the United Kingdom.

Shortly after assuming control of Kiambu County as the fourth county chief, Wamatangi faced criticism from some county authorities and a group of elected leaders when he outlawed local and foreign seminars and benchmarking visits.

The governor says such trips, common in regional governments, are a waste of public resources. In his opinion, these funds should be used for development and service improvement, while the time officers spend on the trips could be better utilised to run county affairs.

Wamatangi issued an order to all county officers, including himself, mandating the holding of workshops and seminars that previously quickly passed for sponsored events in expensive hotels in a tent as part of austerity measures.

Subsequently, the county staff gave the tent the moniker “Vasha,” the short form for Naivasha. Whenever they schedule a meeting, even one that would last three days, they joke that it will take place at the Naivasha tent, which has a concrete floor and a red carpet and is capable of hosting over 100 people.

The governor also holds his meetings with the management team and other guests at the tent, even hosting President William Ruto during one of his visits to Kiambu town in August last year.

“Officers used to spend up to Sh10 million on per diem and other expenses when they flew to Mombasa and Naivasha for a week to discuss a Sh10 million project,” the governor said.

The governor said when he took office, he found a Sh50 million hotel bill accrued during former Kiambu governor James Nyoro’s administration for meetings at the establishment located 2km from the county headquarters.