EDITORIAL: Enforce austerity measures

Treasury secretary Henry Rotich has once again announced a raft of austerity measures that he believes will help the government plug the budget hole created by revenue shortfalls.

In his latest plan meant to rein in profligate spending by national and county government officials, Mr Rotich has flagged the usual suspects for the chopboard: travel, motor vehicle maintenance and hospitality.

The decision appears sound, coming in the wake of the cash crunch that recently hit the public service, including compromising the State’s ability to pay some of its workers.

Yet Mr Rotich’s announcement is likely to be greeted with a fair dose of cynicism among many Kenyans, and understandably so.

Past calls to austerity by the Treasury have gone largely unheeded, with subsequent reports of the Controller of Budget indicating that just about every ministry, department, agency or county has been busting its travel budget.

The Treasury’s mandate over the Parliamentary Service Commission and the county assemblies — the notorious overspenders on travel binge — has itself been challenged.

Worse, the public proclamations of austerity have not been backed by the necessary leadership.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s frequent-flier status and big delegations are unlikely to inspire a culture of belt-tightening in his government.

Of course, Mr Rotich may still pull it off this time round, especially if he can win the support of everyone in government.

But recent experience suggests he faces a Herculean task.