Deputy President Debates Fact-Checks: Karua’s claim on salaries vs expenses

The Deputy Presidential Debate

Four candidates for the position of Deputy President met in a face-to-face debate on July 19, 2022.

The Kenya Editors Guild Fact-Checking desk looked into whether their claims were inaccurate. Here are the fact-checks:

Claim: “The expenditure on operations and maintenance, O+M is over Sh600 billion while salaries are at about Sh550 billion. You can see operations and maintenance overshooting salaries.” - Martha Karua

UPDATE: Economist Wehliye Mohammed told the Kenya Editors Guild fact-checking desk that the conclusion above was inaccurate and that Karua did not refer to county government expenses.

He provided the  2020/2021 Budget Outlook and Review Paper. This is a report published by the National Treasury that, among other things, details the “actual fiscal performance in the previous financial year compared to the budget appropriation for that year”.

“O+M is over Sh600 billion”

In 2020/2021, the national government spent Sh558.6 billion on operations and maintenance. This figure, while lower than Karua’s claim by Sh41 billion, is closer than our previous total of Sh324 billion to her claim of over “Sh600 million”. Mr Mohammed noted the figures from the controller of budget include only ministries, departments and agencies, but not semi-autonomous government agencies. Those organisations, such as the National Police Service and the Kenya Defence Forces, are funded through current transfers that also include funds for salaries and operations and maintenance.

Adding the “current transfer” figure of Sh443.8 billion to the national government figure of Sh218.7 billion gives Sh662.5 billion for operations and maintenance, which matches Ms Karua’s claim.

However, the “current transfer” does not consist entirely of funds for operations and maintenance. For example, the state department of university education had current transfers of Sh55 billion in 2020/2021. The largest expense in these transfers was not operations and maintenance, but rather salaries. For example, the University of Nairobi’s total expenditure was Sh13.7 billion, Sh9.6 billion of which was salaries.

The same is also true of the Ministry of Defence. In 2020/2021, its total expenditure was Sh115.5 billion, which included a current transfer of Sh104 billion. That is the Kenya Defence Forces budgetary allocation, which includes salaries, in addition to operations and maintenance.  Note that the Sh1.3 billion salaries allocation at the Ministry of Defence is not enough to pay the many thousands of Kenya’s soldiers, sailors and Air Force personnel, but is likely for salaries for staff at the ministry’s headquarters.

Treasury data shows the government spent Sh558.6 billion on operations and maintenance, but it is not clear that it spent Sh662.5 billion, according to the controller of budget. So her claim of over Sh600 billion is partly true.

Salaries are at ‘about Sh550 billion’

Regarding salaries, if Ms Karua was referring to the national government only as Mr Mohammed says, then her estimate of “about Sh550 billion” is on the higher side of the budget review and outlook paper figure of Sh493 billion and the 2020/2021 Controller of Budget report figure of Sh489 billion.

The wages paid by the national government can be calculated by subtracting wages paid at the county level from the total public wage bill. According to the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, in 2020/2021, Kenya’s public wage bill was Sh930.5 billion.

According to the Controller of Budget, counties spent Sh176 billion on salaries that year. This means that the entire national government wage bill was Sh754.5 billion, Sh200 billion more than Ms Karua claimed.


- This fact check was produced as part of an initiative by the Kenya Editors Guild to counter disinformation.


You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.