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Military, spy agency the darlings of Uhuru spend

President Uhuru Kenyatta at the Validation Exercise of Kenya's Pledged Forces to the Eastern Africa Standby Force in Archer's Post, Isiolo County, 2014. [Courtesy]

Virtually all governments thrive in secrecy. No wonder some people like to think that the Swahili word for government, ‘Serikali,’ actually means ‘siri kali’ (highly guarded secret).

When National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani tabled a mini-budget before the National Assembly for approval last week, there was an additional allocation to two sections of the government whose spending has been ‘top-secret.’

In the first Supplementary Estimates for the financial year ending June, Yatani allocated an additional Sh17.3 billion to the Ministry of Defense and the National Intelligence Service (NIS), in what was said to be money for security during the elections.

But the increased expenditure on security arms that are not open to audit is not unique to an election year. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government has a knack for such ‘off-book’ spending with allocation to the military and NIS more than doubling since 2013.

Allocation to the Ministry of Defence and NIS has increased to Sh134 billion in the current financial year from Sh84 billion during 2013-14.

Prices of goods and services in the economy, meanwhile, have increased by 36.4 per cent in the same period. 

Security, health and education are some of the areas where recruitment of workers has never been frozen. Security agencies recruit staff every year, in what is aimed at ensuring that Kenyans remain safe and secure.

KDF soldiers in action at Fafadun, Somalia, 2014. [George Mulala, Standard]

As a result, their total spending has been rising steadily.

During an election year, more money is used to gather intelligence and recruit more police officers. For example, in the Supplementary Budget, there was an additional Sh126.3 billion, with the Defence ministry and NIS among the beneficiaries.

“The increase is largely on account of increases in A-I-A (appropriation-in-aid), provisions for Covid-19 related expenditures, drought-related expenditure, 2022 General Election related expenditure, security-related expenditure, support to State-owned enterprises, among others,” said Mr Yatani.

For example, in the financial year 2017-18, ahead of the 2017 elections, allocation to NIS rose by more than a fifth to Sh31.2 billion compared to Sh25.3 billion in the 2016-17 financial year. 

In fact, in Kenyatta’s first budget for the financial year 2013-14, the allocation to these departments rose sharply by 16.6 per cent to Sh98 billion.

Uhuru’s love for the miliatry has transcended allocations. The Kenyan army has also been given many functions outside the barracks including running Kenya Meat Commission and repairing the metre gauge railway.

Kenyatta said he prefers working with the military for their unit of command, efficiency and reasonable pricing.

In 2018, the High Court gave the Auditor General a free hand to audit expenditure allocated to the military and other national security organs.