By Guchu Ndung’u and Bernard Namunane
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday warned governors to prepare for tough times ahead even as they agreed to slash by half all the money that they have budgeted to spend on travel and allowances for State and public officials.
Addressing a press conference at the Sagana State Lodge, the President said all the money saved from the austerity measures will be used to finance national projects.
In his address to the nation, the President said: “The Summit also agreed on the adoption of a policy of austerity aimed at releasing more resources from recurrent expenditure to development. The national and county governments committed to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in travel and allowance expenditure across all government organs.”
PENCHANT FOR TRAVELLING
The reduction in spending on travel and allowances could save the government billions of shillings, given the penchant for travel by members of county assemblies, Members of Parliament and senior government officers in the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature.
President Kenyatta said: “There have also been repeated accusations of waste and inappropriate budgeting and spending. Members of the county assemblies, in particular, have been accused of excessive spending; while reports of abuse of power, privilege and county resources by members of the county executives have been a feature of our national discourse.”
The agreement to cut spending came against the background of a report by the Controller of Budget indicating that in the current financial year, the Treasury released only Sh310 billion between July and September because of the cash crunch that hit the government.
In the June Budget, Treasury CS Henry Rotich had said that the government would spend Sh453 billion.
“We have agreed to reduce travel and allowance expenses by 50 per cent, eliminate duplication of functions and wastage at both levels of government,” said President Kenyatta.
MISSED REVENUE TARGETS
Spending by the government has been on the increase, but tax collection has not grown to match the government’s appetite.
Only this week, the Kenya Revenue Authority and the Kenya Ports Authority sacked five top bosses at the Mombasa port to reduce corruption and loss of tax revenue.
Thursday, President Kenyatta warned all the 47 counties to prepare for tough times ahead, saying that Budget estimates for the coming financial year would be lower than the current year.
Although he also pledged to increase the amount of money allocated to counties, he did not say by how much, only revealing that he and the governors had agreed to increase it each year.
In an interview with the Nation after the event, Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong said the government had allowed them to borrow at least 20 per cent of their revenue from banks whenever Treasury delays releasing funds.
The Central Bank of Kenya had earlier banned such transactions and asked banks not to lend cash to counties.
During the talks, the governors demanded that the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission be reconstituted.
They said the current team was unprofessional and uncouth and cited the treatment of Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria as evidence that the commission was unprofessional. President Kenyatta did not respond to the EACC complaint. Several governors are under investigation for corruption.
Last month, Mr Wa Iria’s supporters were involved in a scuffle with investigators who had raided his home. This week, he was questioned over the incident.
For its part, the government accused governors of frustrating national flagship projects by making unrealistic demands.
The head of the Presidential Delivery Unit, Mr Nzioka Waita, gave the example of the Nyandarua wind power project and the Meru solar power project as some of the programmes that have been frustrated by counties.
Celebrating the achievements made possible by devolution, the President, in his national address, gave the examples of the first tarmac road in Wajir County, the first Caesarian Section births in Mandera County and Mbeere sub-counties and the first Kenya Medical Training College in Pokot County as some of the fruits of devolution.
Samburu County, he said, had reduced maternal mortality by 79 per cent.
“The heart of that new order is devolution,” he said.
In his briefs remarks, Deputy President William Ruto said devolution had brought an end to marginalisation and unequal development across the country.
“There are no parts of Kenya which can be said to be marginalised any more. Each part of Kenya is equal now,” he said, adding that those who used to say they were travelling to Kenya when going to Nairobi no longer have to make the claim.
Council of Governors Chairman Peter Munya — also the Meru governor — promised that governors will cooperate with the national government to ensure that development cascades to all regions across the country.
Source: All Africa