Mini budget would raise President’s travel spending seven times over two years

GRAPHIC | JOY ABISAGI

What you need to know:

  • Simply put, one in 12 shilling in the entire re-current supplementary budget will go to the hospitality and travel expenses for the Presidency.
  • This followed a statement that Mr Esipisu issued last December, which stated that the President’s foreign trips have enabled Kenya to secure billions of dollars in loans and infrastructure deals.
  • Mr Rotich said all foreign benchmarking and study trips by national and county government officials would be restricted, with the size of official delegations being kept to the minimum.

If Parliament approves the Supplementary Budget in its current form, the Presidency’s budget to wine, dine, entertain and travel will have expanded nearly seven times in less than two years, an analysis of budget data by Nation Newsplex has found.

While the budget for hospitality and travel in the last financial year eventually came to Sh875.81 million, allocations for the same function will increase to Sh1.7 billion in the supplementary budget for the current year alone.

This year only, the proposed supplementary budget increases the allocation for hospitality and travel in the Presidency from Sh925.37 million in the Budget approved last June to Sh1.7 billion, after an increase in the Supplementary Budget, an increase of Sh775 million.

This 84 per cent jump in allocation for hospitality and travel comes as the government claims it is implementing austerity measures and working to end waste.

From July to December 2015, the Presidency spent Sh946 million on travel and hospitality. This exceeded the entire year’s allocation by Sh21 million.

In 2014/2015, the president’s original travel budget  was Sh231.4 million, meaning that the current supplementary travel budget of Sh1.7billion represents an increase of 640 per cent.

The proposed near-doubling of the Presidency’s hospitality allocation is only surpassed by increases in the 2014/2015 supplementary budget, when funds allocated to travel and hospitality for the Presidency rose by Sh644 million, a whopping 278 per cent jump over the main budget.

FORECASTING NOT POSSIBLE

Hospitality and travel refers to money being allocated to domestic travel and subsistence and other transportation costs, foreign travel and subsistence and other transportation costs, as well as hospitality supplies and services.

Simply put, one in 12 shilling in the entire re-current supplementary budget will go to the hospitality and travel expenses for the Presidency.

Last week, Mr Rotich told the National Assembly’s Liaison Committee that the Presidency has so far exceeded its budget for local travel by Sh300 million.

From July to December 2015, the Presidency spent Sh946 million on travel and hospitality. This exceeded the entire year’s allocation by Sh21 million.

Overall the Presidency’s recurrent budget was revised upward 21 per cent from Sh5.9 billion to Sh7.1 billion, which makes the presidency one of the largest beneficiaries of the mini-budget.

Mr Rotich told the MPs that it is not usually possible to forecast how much travel the President would undertake at the beginning of the financial year, which means that the Budget is not set.

“If you compare this with the previous governments, the movement of the President was not as frequent as they are now,” he said.

While announcing the president’s planned trips to Germany and France this month, his Spokesman Manoah Esipisu defended the number of trips Uhuru has made abroad.

He said if journalists compared the number of trips the President takes with those taken by leaders of other “economic powerhouses” they would find that each one to be tactical. “The President’s travels are business, not pleasure,” he said.

MORE DOMESTIC TRAVEL

This followed a statement that Mr Esipisu issued last December, which stated that the President’s foreign trips have enabled Kenya to secure billions of dollars in loans and infrastructure deals.

The matter did not appear to have raised concerns within the committee, which is dominated by the Jubilee Coalition as it is composed of committee chairmen, and the Opposition only chairs the Public Accounts and the Public Investments committees.

Several heads of state and government are indeed expected to make high-profile visits to Kenya this year, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The increases are tough to justify when the government has also missed its revenue target by a significant margin this year and economic growth forecasts have been revised down.  The Kenya Revenue Authority missed its half-year target for tax collection by Sh47.6 billion.

At the start of the fiscal year the government predicted that the Kenyan economy would grow by seven per cent, but this was revised to 5.8 per cent in the Budget Policy Statement 2016.

Lately the President has also upped his domestic travel to sell Jubilee’s development agenda ahead of the election.  Since January, when he spent a month at the Coast, President Kenyatta has toured Central Kenya twice, Nakuru once, and is reported to be headed to Kirinyaga and Nyeri again after ending the two-day Cabinet retreat in Naivasha.

By April 9, President Kenyatta had made 64 official visits to foreign countries, with seven of them being this year. So far he has been on official trips to Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda at least three times. His predecessor Mwai Kibaki made 33 trips during his 10-year presidency.

SMALLER DELEGATIONS

These rises follow a raft of measures introduced by the government last year which it said were aimed at lowering the runaway public expenditure bill.  

Mr Rotich said all foreign benchmarking and study trips by national and county government officials would be restricted, with the size of official delegations being kept to a minimum.

Further, all government ministries were issued with circulars directing them to cut on non-essential expenditure including the purchase of flowers and celebratory cards during festive seasons.

The move, according to Mr Rotich, would ease widespread concerns about the country’s public finances by reducing the fiscal deficit and putting the economy on the right path to recovery. 

The analysis, done jointly with the Institute of Economic Affairs, also looked at other government ministries and Parliament to find out whether the Treasury Cabinet secretary kept his promise of implementing austerity measures on travel and hospitality for the Legislative arm of government.

Foreign travel subsistence and other transportation costs for Legislative Services rose 10 per cent, from Sh138 million to Sh153 million.

The allocation on the same items for Committee Services was increased by four per cent, from Sh600 million to 625 million.

Hospitality supplies and services within the Office of the Clerk reduced by Sh25million or 15 per cent, from Sh173 million to 148 million.  But the cut was offset by an increase in the Foreign Travel and Subsistence, and other transportation costs of Sh30m, a 87 per cent jump.

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