By: JACQUELINE KUBANIA
A Kenyan delegation of at least 41 officials will Monday be heading to France for climate change talks, raising questions about the government’s commitment to cutting public spending.
A tentative list seen by the Daily Nation shows that officials in the Office of the President will form the bulk of the delegates travelling to Paris for the Climate Change Conference (COP21), which seeks to find better ways of managing the devastating effects of global warming.
Some 18 delegates from the Office of the President will be travelling with President Uhuru Kenyatta to Paris, where they will join an advance team of nine officials.
This brings the total number of delegates from the Office of the President to 27.
A former Foreign Affairs official said that the President and two Cabinet secretaries — Ms Amina Mohamed of Foreign and Prof Judi Wakhungu (Environment) will be attending the segment for heads of State.
Usually, he said, they are accompanied by about 30 support staff.
According to the list, the Ministry of Environment, under which climate change falls, had only one delegate on the list, a Ms Fatuma Hussein, of the Climate Change Secretariat.
Although Prof Wakhungu, under whom the ministry falls, was not on the list seen by Nation, a source in her ministry said she had already travelled to Paris.
The source said the CS was accompanied by three other members from the Climate Change Secretariat — Dr Charles Mutai, Mr Omedi Jura and Mr Stephen Kimuyu.
There is a possibility, therefore, that there are more people travelling to Paris than was indicated in the tentative list.
However, some of those on the list on Sunday confirmed to the Nation that they were indeed travelling.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is sending eight officials to the summit, including Ms Mohamed.
A HUGE TEAM
National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich — who was listed as a delegate — Sunday confirmed that he would not be travelling to Paris.
Among the officials on the list are National Environment Management Authority boss Geoffrey Wahungu, Kenya Forest Service director Emilio Mugo, Meteorological Services Director James Kongoti and Ms Lulu Hayanga of the State Law Office.
This brings the total number of delegates travelling to Paris to 41.
According to the delegates list, the officials will be travelling today and will be in Paris until December 11.
Parliament will also be sending two members to the talks — Mbita MP Millie Odhiambo and Nairobi County Woman representative Rachel Shebesh.
The large number of delegates raises questions about the government’s commitment to curbing runaway spending, which has left the country in an unprecedented financial crunch.
It is reminiscent of the big delegation of 29 MPs that travelled to the Netherlands for the just-concluded Assembly of State Parties meeting to push Kenya’s position in the case against Deputy President William Ruto and former radio presenter Joshua arap Sang.
The cheapest return ticket to Paris is about Sh130,000.
This means that the delegation of 41 will use more than Sh5.3 million on air fare alone, assuming they all travel economy class.
Hotel bookings will cost another Sh19 million, assuming that the cost of a decent hotel in Paris is about Sh40,000 a night. These costs exclude any per diem paid to the officials.
Calls to government officials to explain why Kenya needs to send such a large delegation to Paris went unanswered, with most officials contacted referring the Nation to the Foreign Ministry.
Last month, Mr Rotich announced a raft of austerity measures to reduce public spending, just weeks after announcing that the country was experiencing a cash crisis.
Featured prominently in the document were proposed spending cuts on foreign trips by government officials.
According to the brief prepared by the National Treasury, the number of aides who accompany Cabinet and principal secretaries on foreign trips was to have been reduced significantly.
The brief said three Cabinet secretaries have been known to take between six and seven aides on foreign trips.
“The government will be asking Cabinet secretaries and principal secretaries to stop travelling with a battery of aides, including security, personal assistants, secretaries and advisors. The Treasury wants this reduced to a maximum of two aides,” said the brief titled Cracking Whip to Maintain Fiscal Discipline in the Economy.