Dialogue team's radical austerity measures to ease Kenyans' burden

National Dialogue Committee Co-chairs Kalonzo Musyoka and Kimani Ichungwah when they released the committee's report. 

Key recommendations of the National Dialogue Committee could greatly impact state operations.

Apart from creation of the office of the official opposition leader and two deputies, that could open a new spending front from the exchequer, a bulk of the recommendations are geared at tightening the pursue.

The committee recommended reduced travel by government officials, expansion of the Executive, reduction of fuel prices, collapse of government institutions, increase of allocation to the counties, and an audit of last year’s presidential elections.

If the proposals are fully implemented, government officials with a penchant for travelling and raking allowances will be forced to reduce their travel budget by 50 per cent.

The committee co-chaired by National Assembly Majority leader Kimani Ichung’wah and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, wants the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to reduce the daily subsistence allowance (per diem) for public officials by 30 per cent.

Economy class

In tightening the belt on government expenditure, the committee recommended that all state and Public officers travel in economy class for flights of not more than four hours.

The committee report, which is expected to be presented to Parliament, recommends the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC), and Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) be merged, and their mandates be undertaken by the Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission as established under Article 59 of the Constitution.

It is not clear the fate of the staff in the three institutions NCIC, NGEC, and KNCHR. This may be determined by the end of one year once the report has been adopted by Parliament.

The committee recommended that national and county governments adopt the Zero-Based Budgeting approach to enhance accountability, rapidly reduce wastage of public funds, and address the challenge of incremental budgeting.

The Ichungwa and Kalonzo-led committee wants the national and county governments to freeze the establishment of new State corporations.

The team recommended that the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum in liaison with the National Treasury reduce the Road Maintenance Levy by Sh5 from Sh18 to Sh13 and the Anti-adulteration Levy from Sh18 to Sh15 thus reducing by Sh3.

It also wants the Advisory Committee on the Power of Mercy to advise the President on interventions that will facilitate the decongestion of prisons as a criminal justice reform issue as well as a cost-cutting measure.

In addition, Parliament shall review criminal justice laws and enact legislation to provide for non-custodial sentences including community service and probation where appropriate.

Elderly money

The committee recommended that Parliament in consultation and concurrence with the National Treasury, review the allocation to all beneficiaries under the Older Persons Cash Transfer (OPCT) programme.

“The National Treasury to consider reallocating savings made from the reduced government expenditure on Daily Subsistence Allowance for state and public officers by 30 per cent towards an increase of allocations under the OPCT,” reads the report.

It also recommended that the national and county governments provide food to schools and invest in boarding schools in arid and semi-arid regions to enhance student retention and promote education. 

The committee’s recommendations once adopted by Parliament will see a serious government rationalization of its expenditure for the next three years to allow the economy to recover.

The proposal to have SRC reduce travel allowances comes after in March this year, it reviewed the per diems for all government employees that would see daily local travel allowances go up by between Sh1,200 and Sh8,000 for government officials whose assignments are outside cities, county headquarters, Malindi and Naivasha.

In the hikes, SRC raised the minimum per diems by between 400 per cent and 66.7 per cent, depending on the job groups. Under the SRC changes, the flat rate for the top-grade State officers and civil servants will be Sh22,000, in what will be a 57 per cent rise from Sh14,000 for those officials whose assignments have been in towns outside cities, county headquarters, Malindi, and Naivasha

There are also proposals to have the government reduce allocations to hospitality and office general supplies by 50 per cent.

County governments will be the biggest beneficiaries given that Parliament was mandated to amend Article 203 (2) to provide that, for every financial year, the equitable share of the revenue raised nationally that is allocated to county governments shall not be less than twenty per cent of all revenue collected by the national government.

Currently, the article puts the mandatory allocations at 15 per cent of the audited revenue collected by the national government.

Roads budget

On top of that, the counties will also earn more roads after the national government, in consultation with the county governments, finalises the classification of all roads with a view to aligning the attendant budget to the respective governments. 

Included in the benefits for the devolved units is the constitution of the Acts of Regional Development Authorities (RDAs) to be amended to provide for the representation of county governments in the Boards of RDAs operating in the counties.

The ultimate boon for the counties is the recommendation that the national government finalizes the transfer of all devolved functions specified under the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution and provide for concomitant resources to the county governments within six months of the adoption of this report.

“These include functions relating to water, agriculture, health, roads, tourism, and wildlife that are still being undertaken by the national government. In addition, Legislation that impedes devolution should be reviewed.” noted the report.

The civil societies have a reason to celebrate given that within 90 days of the adoption of the report, the Ministry of Interior and National Administration will be mandated to operationalize the Public Benefit Organisations Act, 2013 which will enable Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to mobilize resources to cater for social programmes within the community.

During former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s regime, civil society organisations were stifled and blocked from receiving funds from donors abroad for community service rendering several organisations redundant.

The elderly people will be key beneficiaries of the recommendations by the committee given that most of the money the Treasury will save from the considered austerity measures will go towards increase of allocations under the OPCT.

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