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CDF debate features in President Ruto's speech as he highlights governance plan

President William Ruto during the opening of the 13th Parliament. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

President William Ruto now says that members of both the National Assembly and the Senate should be financed to enable them to conduct their oversight role effectively.

The president, who spoke at the Parliament Buildings on Thursday, September 29 during his inaugural address to both Houses of Parliament, said he was of the view that the scrapped National Government Constituency Development Fund should be reintroduced, though through legal means.

The Supreme Court of Kenya had ruled that MPs, according to the Constitution, should not be recipients and managers of money meant for public use.

The judges stated that the function is reserved for the National Government and the 47 county governments.

Ruto, in his address Thursday, said he was among the MPs who benefited from the NG-CDF allocation. Ruto served as Eldoret North MP between 1997 and 2013.

“Having served in Parliament for 15 years, before and after the establishment of NG-CDF, I know the difference it makes is monumental. I believe there is a way NG-CDF can be aligned to the tenets of the Constitution,” the president said.

He urged both the Senate and the National Assembly to set up the Senate Oversight Fund, aimed at providing oversight over monies allocated to counties.

Ruto, however, cleverly avoided calling for the reinstatement of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), which the Supreme Court declared illegal and unconstitutional.

Borrowing

The Head of State acknowledged that the country was doing badly financially.

In his speech, he averred that Kenya needed to invest 25 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) if the country was to rise to the level of an upper middle-income economy.

According to Ruto, Kenya projects to borrow Sh900 billion to bridge a deficit in the current Sh3.3 trillion budget. The president said all of Kenya’s collected taxes go towards offsetting debts and paying civil servants' salaries.

“The government should never borrow to finance recurrent expenditure. This is not right, prudent, or sustainable, it is simply wrong. We must bring ourselves back to sanity,” he said.

Ruto instructed all the 22 ministries in his government to slash Sh300 billion from the current budgetary allocations to avoid overdependence on debts.

“Over the next three years, we must reverse this (overreliance on debts) and go back to the situation where government contributes to the national savings effort by keeping recurrent expenditure below revenue. To this end, I have instructed the National Treasury to work with ministries to find savings of Sh300 billion in this year's budget. Next year, we will bring it further down so that, by the third year, we have a recurrent budget surplus.”

Social Security Fund

Ruto has, in previous public addresses, said that Kenyans’ pension system, if managed properly, contributes significantly to the national savings.

The president, in his speech on Thursday, said that the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) needs be inclusive, and not only cater to people in formal employment.

“There is no retired Kenyan today who is living on their NSSF retirement benefits. The meagre current contribution of Sh200 a month adds up to sh72,000 over 30 years. There is no rate of return on earth that can grow this into an adequate pension,” he said.

“We intend to overhaul our social security infrastructure to make it inclusive. To encourage those excluded to save, I will be proposing a national savings drive to encourage those in the informal sector to set up their retirement savings plan. For every two shillings saved in the scheme, up to a maximum of Sh6,000 a year, the government will contribute one shilling,” added Ruto.

Oversight

President Ruto said his administration believes in oversight and will champion transparency as he rolls out various programmes and policies.

 “I will run an administration that is open, that is transparent, and my administration will rely on oversight from this House to make sure the public gets value for every cent invested in every policy, programme, and project.”

He further urged Parliament to come up with a mechanism that will allow Cabinet Secretaries to answer questions on the floor of the House.

“I ask Parliament to consider a mechanism in the Standing Orders to facilitate Cabinet Secretaries articulate government agenda, explain policy and answer questions on the floor of the House to enhance executive accountability to the people of Kenya through their elected representatives,” said Ruto.

Ruto addressed a joint sitting of Parliament, minutes after inspecting his first guard of honour since being sworn into office on September 13, 2022.