National dialogue team summons Treasury and CSs on high cost of living

National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi (left) makes a presentation as Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka looks on during bipartisan talks at Bomas on October 31, 2023. [David Gichuru, Standard]

The National Treasury, roundly accused of fueling inflation and the high cost of living through exaggerated budgeting and ghost workers, is expected to tell its side of story to the National Dialogue Committee on Monday.

The dialogue committee will hear from the Treasury, which has been put in a spot by the Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o over a number of issues including duplicating public service pay and lacking a register of national debts.

At the same time, the talks team, will examine the impact of the housing levy and its implications on the cost of living. On Tuesday, Dr Nyakang’o cited unnecessary government expenditure, exaggerated budgeting and integrity concerns as key drivers of the ongoing financial turmoil.

She raised concerns about budget discrepancies that have triggered alarm bells about fiscal responsibility.

She highlighted her observations regarding loans taken by the government, including those in 2022, which she found to have ambiguous definitions. She expressed her unease with the National Treasury’s inability to provide a clear account of the projects to which loans were allocated.

“I have been approving payments for public debt, and I have seen many of those things cannot be identified. You cannot tell what the money was meant for, and therefore there was no economic gain from that borrowing. That is what we have been doing for a long time,” she told the team.

In light of these concerns, Dr Nyakang’o urged MPs through the NADCO to investigate what she termed Treasury’s exaggeration of budgets. In a striking example, the Controller of Budget found that her annual salary had been budgeted at three times her actual earnings, a discrepancy that extended to all state officers.

“I am the only state officer in my institution, so there is nothing like confusion there. And it was like that for all state officers,” emphasized Dr Nyakang’o.

The committee will also engage with the State Department of Housing to delve into effects of the housing levy on the cost of living.

On the same day, other stakeholders, including officials from the Treasury and the Ministry of Energy, will participate in discussions. NADCO has also extended invitations to experts to bolster the committee’s capacity to address the cost-of-living predicament.

After these presentations, the committee will reconvene on Thursday, November 9 to review and refine various proposals concerning the cost of living as presented by different stakeholders.

It will also consider legislative instruments that will inform the policy, legislative and administrative framework. The committee will go on retreat on November 12 to draft the final report.

The comprehensive report is slated for presentation to President William Ruto and Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga, with plans to table it in both houses of Parliament.