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Economy

Uhuru, Ruto travel costs cross Sh1bn in polls year

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy president William Ruto during Mashujaa day celebrations at Uhuru Park on October 20, 2017. Photo| Raphael Njoroge | Nation
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy president William Ruto during Mashujaa day celebrations at Uhuru Park on October 20, 2017. Photo| Raphael Njoroge | Nation   

Foreign and local trips of the offices of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, for the first time crossed the Sh1 billion mark in the year to June.

The Controller of Budget report shows that the Presidency, which comprises the offices of the President and the Deputy President, spent Sh1.02 billion in the period, up from Sh769.9 million in a similar period a year earlier.

The 32.5 per cent increase is the fastest growth since the ruling Jubilee government came to power in 2013 and came ahead of the August 8 presidential election, which saw Mr Kenyatta and his deputy seek votes across the country.

It also comes amid an austerity plan by the Treasury to free up cash for development and essential services such as health and education in a country grappling with high poverty levels.

The report indicates that domestic travel accounted for 69 per cent trip spending budget of the Presidency and rose by a third to Sh705.2 million, from Sh529 million.

Mr Kenyatta stepped up campaigning for the August 8 election in the three months to June, underlined by the sharp rise in the domestic travel spending during the quarter.

About 38.1 per cent of the domestic travel budget or Sh269 million happened in the three months to June.

The Opposition petitioned the Supreme Court over Mr Kenyatta’s use of State resources during his re-election campaign.

But Chief Justice David Maraga said ruled that the Opposition did not provide sufficient evidence to show that President Kenyatta broke the law by using State resources during his re-election drive.

The first presidential vote in August, which Mr Kenyatta won by 1.4 million votes, was annulled by the Supreme Court over procedural irregularities.

The re-run happened on October 26 but Opposition leader Raila Odinga pulled out, alleging a failure to improve oversight of the election.

Presidency foreign trips set back taxpayers Sh322.7 million in the period, representing a 34 per cent rise from Sh240 million a year earlier.

State House has been forced to defend Mr Kenyatta’s frequent trips abroad, arguing that the majority of the travels have the potential to attract mega investments that would help lift the country’s fortunes and generate more employment opportunities.

Critics have argued that the many trips abroad run the risk of setting the tone for other public officials to waste public funds on foreign travels.

During his travels, Mr Kenyatta is usually accompanied by large delegations, including his security detail and senior government officials who draw hefty sums in travelling allowances.

The government has been grappling with missed tax collection and borrowing targets triggering a cash crunch that recently forced the Treasury to review its budget.

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