Ruto takes on Uhuru, State over BBI cash and economic woes

Deputy President William Ruto fuel crisis

Deputy President William Ruto addressing journalists at his Karen residence in Nairobi on April 4, 2022 on the shortage of fuel in the country.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

 A fresh row between Deputy President William Ruto and the government is brewing, with the ruling Jubilee Party questioning the millions of shillings the DP spends in his campaigns despite outrage over the high cost of living.

It comes just days after the second-in-command challenged President Kenyatta to own up to misusing billions of shillings in the drive to amend the country’s Constitution through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

For months, the DP confined his attacks on select state agencies, including the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and National Police Service (NPS).

He has recently become more vocal, directly going after President Kenyatta in some instances.

The DP sparked the latest feud on Monday when he questioned the whereabouts of Petroleum Development Fund’s Sh39 billion meant for fuel subsidy.

He said the government diverted the money to service debts and infrastructure development without Parliament’s approval.

“The Auditor-General has raised queries on the irregular and illegal diversion of these consumer protection funds to state agencies and unnamed private entities,” the DP said in Nairobi as he alluded to powerful cartels calling the shots in government.

Ruto blames cartels, state barons for fuel crisis

Yesterday, Jubilee challenged the DP to explain how he had spent “up to Sh50 million a week—which translates to Sh2.6 billion annually” — for his logistics and local travel.

‘Development trips’

“The money is supposed to fund the DP’s development trips in his official capacity while discharging government duties, not to play politics and market his United Democratic Alliance (UDA) as has been the norm,” Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni said.

The party accused the DP of using not less than Sh50 million every weekend “for his campaigns and security,” which, it said, is an extra burden on the taxpayer.

“During his recent trip to the United States and the United Kingdom, Ruto’s 131-man cheering squad spent Sh200 million in logistics, flights, accommodation and allowances. This is enough to provide an emergency food intervention in drought-stricken counties,” Mr Kioni said on Monday.

The Ndaragwa MP added that it’s wrong for the DP to stand on the staircase of a government house, enjoy government security and staffing only for him to insult the same government he should be serving.

“Ruto has two choices, occupy his dusty office at Harambee House and help the President dispense his mandate to the people of Kenya as he constitutionally should, or resign from his position and lead the opposition atop his tax-funded top-of-the-range Land Cruiser,” Mr Kioni said.

The DP’s lieutenants, however, dismissed Jubilee’s statements.

Pedestrian arguments

Garissa Township MP and former National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale told the government to come clean on how it spent the Sh39 billion meant for fuel subsidy “instead of engaging in pedestrian arguments”.

“We’ve caught them flat-foot and that’s why they’re engaged in blame-games. If your neighbour is rich and the government does not provide you with power and good roads, will they tell your neighbour to provide you with fuel and other basics?

“That’s the responsibility of the government. It must take responsibility for the high cost of living,” Mr Duale said.

Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa said while leaders in the DP’s camp use their own money to campaign, the DP is justified to spend public cash because he is still in office.

High cost of living

“The figures given are exaggerated but what we are doing is equally important. We want to send home a government that does not respect Kenyans. Ruto’ mission abroad, irrespective of what he spent there, was important... It’s justified,” Mr Barasa told the Nation.

After the Supreme Court declared the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020 unconstitutional, the DP’s camp claimed Sh10 billion had been squandered on the process and demanded an apology to Kenyans from the President and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader, Mr Raila Odinga.

“We’re aware the BBI Task Force spent approximately Sh10 billion of public money in hotels purportedly collecting views on the now declared unconstitutional bill,” the Ruto-led Kenya Kwanza Alliance said in a statement.

“The Constitution clearly states that if the holder of a public office, directs or approves the use of public funds contrary to law or instructions, the person is liable for any loss arising from that use and shall make good the loss, whether the person remains the holder of the office or not.”

The DP has been at loggerheads with the government since early 2018 when the President and the ODM chief shook hands and pledged to work together.

According to the DP and his team, the handshake marked the beginning of the problems Kenyans are facing, including the high cost of living.

“What was government is now like the opposition while the opposition is behaving like the government,” the DP said.

“It’s that confusion that has visited on the people of Kenya an accountability problem. There are no clear lines between the people in the opposition and the people in government.”

He said his team cares about the welfare of ordinary Kenyans.

“We believe in the citizenship of this country. What we are doing should be somebody else’s responsibility but we’re doing it because we have the interest of the nation at heart. We would have chosen to keep quiet but the crises in Kenya cannot allow that,” he said.

On several occasions, the DP has blamed the DCI, the National Police Service, the EACC and KRA of persecuting him and his allies, charges the agencies deny.

“The DCI, EACC and KRA now run political errands. They have dismantled businesses that belong to people who don’t worship them.

“Our government will change all that,” the DP said during the launch of his presidential candidacy in Nairobi on March 15.

“We will professionalise the DCI and KRA to discharge their constitutional and legal duties. On the first day of our government, we will appoint an accounting officer for the Inspector-General of Police and the DCI. The two will have financial independence and will never again depend on the Office of the President.”

The DP has criticised the President and Mr Odinga for pushing the implementation of the BBI, which the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional by.