From the sunroof of his vehicle, President William Ruto on Friday announced he had cut travel expenditure by Sh11 billion, further directing that government travel allowances, across all three arms, be slashed by half.
The president spoke in Voi, Taita Taveta County, where he opened a Sh60 million gem centre. His remarks were in reaction to the criticism he has received for his appetite for foreign trips and came in the wake of an assurance that he would cut his travel expenses by Sh500 million.
But yesterday, the Head of State took to the skies again, making his 39th foreign tour in a visit to the Congo, where he is attending a climate summit dubbed the Summit of the Three Basins.
His latest trip to Brazzaville will, undoubtedly, add to the pile of millions the taxpayer has forked out to finance the Head of State’s trips abroad. But the said amount pales in comparison to that required to fund Ruto’s local trips.
Whether it is stepping out to grace a function, a church service, a fundraiser or inspecting or launching a project, Ruto has an obvious liking for the outdoors.
Since he assumed office in September last year, he has made countless such trips across the country. The tours do not come cheap.
The president’s domestic trips dent the public coffers significantly more than his foreign travels, as data by Controller of Budget (CoB) Margaret Nyakang’o show. Between July last year and June this year, the Executive Office of the President splurged Sh1 billion in domestic travel, which overshadows the Sh361 million spent on trips abroad.
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The figures are contained in the CoB’s Annual National Government Budget Implementation Review Report for FY 2022/23. It is worth to note that the expenditure includes the period before he took over.
But a previous report by Nyakang’o showed that the president’s office spent Sh582 million in domestic travel between July 2022 and March this year, meaning that Ruto spent Sh418 million in April, May and June, on local trips. By March, he had spent Sh98.8 million on foreign travel, meaning the head of state spent Sh262.2 million on foreign trips between April and June. Comparatively, the president’s office, under former President Uhuru Kenyatta, spent Sh873 million in the previous financial year (2021/2022) on local travel and Sh83.54 million on foreign tours.
It is worth noting that in that year, the Executive Office of the President comprised the deputy president’s office, meaning the stated figure spent in the 2021/22 financial year included expenditures by Ruto, then the deputy president.
Ruto’s presidency significantly outspent Uhuru’s in the period under comparison, even without factoring in expenditures on domestic travel by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, which amounts to Sh63 million in domestic travel between July last year and June this year and Sh43 million in foreign travel.
The Commander-in-Chief’s domestic trips cost a quarter of the Sh4.81 billion the entire National Assembly spent in the 2022/2023 financial year. Such figures show how expensive it is to have the president on the move, complete with the grand motorcade of fuel guzzlers and tens of orderlies who accompany him on local trips.
Several considerations, chief of which is security, make travel, as routine as it may seem, costlier. The president is entitled to at least 200 officers, comprising those from elite units, offering round-the-clock security.
That Ruto enjoys travelling locally has never been in doubt, a factor that saw Uhuru criticise his former deputy with the “tanga tanga” remark.
An analysis by The Sunday Standard reveals that Ruto has had more than 70 official and personal engagements across the country since August, some of which have been in the capital, with others taking him to other counties.
Before his Taita Taveta trip this week, the president attended a special needs education function in Kasarani, Nairobi. He had attended a church service at Riruta in Dagoretti South, two days after he presided over the Mashujaa Day celebrations in Kericho.
Ever energetic, Ruto makes several stops in his tours of all the counties he visits, mostly to inspect or launch a different project, as evidenced in recent tours of Nyanza, Western, Mt Kenya and Coast regions. The engagements, predictably, outnumber the counties in which he has had them.
Since the end of July, he has had such sessions in more than 25 counties. They include Nairobi (the most times), Kericho, Nakuru, Siaya, Kisumu, Migori, Homa Bay, Kiambu, Meru, Nyeri, Kakamega, Vihiga, Bungoma, Busia, Nyamira, Kisii, Baringo, Mombasa, Kwale, Tana River, Kilifi, Lamu and Taita Taveta.
Ruto made a four-day tour of Nyanza earlier this month, the second major tour, although he has visited the region on five other occasions as president.
In August, he toured the Gusii region three times to launch projects, the last coming within five days of the previous one. His other significant trip to Nyanza came in January, a two-day tour of Kisumu, Siaya and Homa Bay.
In August, the president made a five-day tour of the Western region, visiting Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia and Vihiga. He was previously in the region during a two-day visit in December.
Earlier in August, he also spent five days in Mt Kenya, holding rallies and launching projects. A month earlier, he also spent five days touring the Coastal region.
Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya has faulted Ruto for carrying out functions meant for junior officers, such as inspecting road projects at exorbitant costs.
“They are using helicopters to launch water taps,” former Planning Principal Secretary Saitoti Torome said when Azimio released its assessment of Ruto’s one-year performance last month.
Others, too, feel that the president’s travel budget is not prudent.
“So, President Ruto spends Sh56 million on travels in half year, then demands everyone else to cut travel expenses, and asks Parliament to implement today, Knowing National Assembly is in recess. Wakenya mtajua hamjui,” Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo posted on X, formerly Twitter, in the wake of Ruto’s remarks Friday.
Further, the opposition has accused the head of state of seeking mileage by claiming projects carried out by his predecessor, further criticising him for hitting the campaign trail “too early” at the expense of working, as he has held road-side rallies in virtually all his local tours.
Ruto has not helped his case by fashioning the trips he has dubbed “working or development tours” into political arenas. In recent months, he has used the tours to champion his reelection bid and open his United Democratic Alliance(UDA) party offices. That was the case during his tour of Nyanza earlier this month, Mt Kenya in September and Western in August.