Kenya cannot afford wastage on VIP travels

When Prime Cabinet Minister Musalia Mudavadi represent President William Ruto at a high-level summit in Angola. [Twitter, Musalia Mudavadi]

Barely days after National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung’u presented the 2023/24 Budget of Sh3.6 trillion and which will be financed through heavy taxation, runaway wastefulness in the Kenya Kwanza administration has been laid bare.

According to the latest report of the Controller of Budget, the national government and Parliament spent Sh14 billion in local and foreign travel in the last nine months, the highest in a similar period in the last five years. 

Parliament alone spent Sh5.86 billion for local and foreign travel, which was the highest. It is time we, as a country, decide whether it is necessary for members of the executive, judges, MPs and MCAs to retreat to the Coast or Naivasha for induction, training seminars and report writing, usually held in expensive hotels given the dire economic straits we are facing. 

While the problem has not started with this administration, especially on travel, we cannot continue this way especially when the tax burden on Kenyans is rising amid a high cost of living. 

It was of concern, for instance, that the CS never spelt out any belt tightening measures in his budget, which Kenyans have been calling for. 

Neither did he expound on austerity measures directed by President William Ruto last September, which led to scrapping of all expenditure on foreign travel, training, and motor vehicle and furniture purchases. 

Budgets on communication services, domestic travel, advertising and printing, hospitality, and vehicle rentals were also drastically reduced. 

But going by Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o’s report, the measures meant to save Sh300 billion were never implemented.  And we do not yet have figures for the remainder of the financial year from April. 

We express this fear because Kenyans have been treated to numerous foreign trips by senior government officials, including Cabinet Secretaries, ostensibly to attract investors and business opportunities.

Trade CS Moses Kuria made ten trips in February alone. While we do not suggest that these travels, including by the President, are of little benefit, one must question if they were all necessary while the country even failed to pay civil servants March salaries on time.  The NHIF has been unable to pay rebates due to problems with exchequer issues. Similarly, County governments, social services such as education and social security for vulnerable groups  have suffered delayed dispersals. 

Indeed, when a question on the necessity of the travels was put to the President’s own chief economic adviser Dr David Ndii on Twitter, he offered an honest answer: “Government is wasteful. And this administration has an itchy feet problem.”