Task force raises red flag over fate of 280 luxury vehicles

PHOTO | FILE Some of the luxury vehicles that were surrendered by top government officials in exchange for the Volkswagen Passat by February 2010.

What you need to know:

  • Sale tender for cars was cancelled and should be secured from ‘misuse or loss’, says audit report

The task force set up to curb the use of luxury cars by top officials has raised the red flag over the fate of 280 vehicles surrendered to the Treasury in one of the government’s most drastic cost-cutting measures.

The cars are some of 2,143 vehicles surrendered by government ministries countrywide at the end of November 2012.

According to the task force, the vehicles, which were surrendered to the Treasury for disposal and whose sale tender was cancelled, should be secured from “misuse or loss”.

“After cancellation of the tender, it is not clear who is responsible for these vehicles, and the task force is afraid that the new development could open these vehicles to all manner of misuse including loss,” said task force chairman Mr D. Kibera.

In addition to trying to determine the fate of the 280 flagged vehicles, the task force is in the process of selling another 135 cars. They have already sold 1,597.

Mr Kibera recommends the appointment of an interim team headed by Mr Boniface Simba to run the next phase of the transport policy. Mr Peter Muhia Wanjiku and Ms Anne Gathoni Macharia are on the team.

“It is also important to retain the membership of the State Corporation Advisory Committee (SCAC) and the Chief Mechanical and Transport Engineer in the TF to help implement the ongoing activities,” the report says. The new team started work last month.

The task force developed a government motor vehicle inventory consisting of 5,955 cars. The vehicles exclude security, ambulances and fire- fighting vehicles.

The team also developed a database -of 1,171 donor-funded project vehicles and set up a government fleet management unit at the Treasury.

The task force was set up in 2009 after the government banned the purchase and use of cars with an engine capacity exceeding 1800cc as a cost control measure within the government.

In June the same year, then Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta announced the new transport policy banning the use of Mercedes Benzs and other fuel guzzlers.

Cabinet ministers surrendered the Mercedes Benzs for Volkswagen Passats of not more than 1,800cc.

The task force, which handed in its report in May, has recommended a draft transport policy that is awaiting Cabinet approval.

According to officials privy to the new policy, it recommends that the government consider leasing cars instead of buying and owning vehicles to cut down on costs.

The task force realised Sh356 million from the sale of high-engine capacity vehicles.

According to the team, 156 parastatals have complied with the policy, and it recommends that the Treasury streamlines procurement in ministries, parastatals and government departments in line with the policy change.

The report shows that the government had sold 1,597 surrendered cars through open tender by the end of November 2012.

The cars were among 2,143 high-engine capacity vehicles the task force took over, valued and inspected from ministries and government departments.

The team recommends that the new unit takes over all functions relating to the implementation of the new government transport policy.

“The Ministry of State for Public Service has now approved the establishment of the unit in the Treasury vide letter dated 8th January 2013 addressed to the financial secretary,” the report says.

National Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich has stated that the government would not condone lavish spending.

He said his ministry had not authorised the purchase of the new vehicles and no funds had been allocated to buy cars in the new financial year.

Mr Rotich said any ministry that bought new cars would be acting illegally and in contravention of the government’s transport policy.

However, he acknowledged that some of the new vehicles being used by top officials were paid for from allocations made in the financial year that ended last Sunday.

“The circular on transport policy still remains. It is clear that we have not allocated any money for people to buy cars,” he said and warned against further purchases in the new financial year.

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