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Budget process needs to be more open than this

Staff at the National Treasury and Planning preparing the 2022/23 budget. [Treasury, Twitter]

That this has been one of the opaquest budgets to have been read in recent times is without a doubt.

By the time we were going to press, no journalist, analyst, lawmaker, or ordinary Kenyan in the street knew where a critical document known as Finance Bill was.

Yet, the Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury Ukur Yatani quoted extensively from this document which outlines the revenue-raising measures for the Government in a given financial year.

Suffice to say that the Cabinet Secretary was very economical with the truth. In as much as this looked like a mwananchi budget with Yatani not announcing punitive new tax measures, the devil remained in the detail. And the detail is in the Finance Bill 2022 and Budget Estimates. 

National Treasury officials, unfortunately, are yet to upload these documents on their website.

Although Treasury mandarins insist that they have tabled the two documents in the National Assembly, the public is yet to access and interrogate them. 

A case in example is the ten per cent increase of excise duty on certain products, other than fuel.

But on what products, only Yatani and other Treasury mandarins seem to know about.

Not only is there a constitutional requirement that gives the public the right to access every information, the Public Finance and Management Act, 2021, gives a clear guideline on the budget-making process.

As Garissa Town MP Adan Duale said, there is even a whiff of illegality in the budget-making process that has been taken in the current financial year.

Sequentially, the law provides that the Budget Estimates be tabled in the National Assembly first before the reading of the budget speech.

Just like the Finance Bill, we have not seen the Budget Estimates.

The Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi belaboured the point that it was not illegal for Yatani to table the two documents on the same day that he read the budget speech, but Yatani himself said he had brought the two documents earlier.

We don’t really care who between Treasury and the National Assembly is telling the truth.

But the nation deserves transparency in the budget-making process.