Uhuru, Ruto lead the pack in defying Treasury as travel spend hits Sh10bn


President Uhuru Kenyatta (centre) is seen off by Deputy President William Ruto at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as he left for the US to attend the United Nations General Assembly. PHOTO | FILE

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s office, that of his deputy, William Ruto and Members of Parliament led in defying the Treasury directive requiring them to cut travel and hospitality expenditure by up to 30 per cent.

Data from the Controller of Budget shows the expenditure on the two items rose 14.5 per cent to Sh15 billion in the year ended June.

In June, Treasury secretary Henry Rotich told Parliament that spending on these items was cut by between 10 and 30 per cent.

The report comes as Kenya struggles to implement austerity measures prompted by underperformance in revenue collection amid rising expenditure.

This has led to a cash crunch that has seen delay in the September salaries of MPs and release of money for key infrastructure projects.

The Presidency, which comprises President Kenyatta’s office and that of his deputy, William Ruto, spent Sh2.1 billion on travel and hospitality in the year to June, a growth of 75 per cent compared to a similar period a year earlier.

The Presidency’s expenditure on hospitality, conferences and catering nearly tripled from Sh670 million to Sh1.48 billion in the year to June.

The Controller of Budget report also shows a substantial increase in the amount of money that MPs spent on foreign trips even as they constantly attacked the profligacy of county governments.

The combined travel budget for the 416 legislators and the parliamentary staff under the Parliamentary Service Commission rose from Sh3 billion in 2013/14 to Sh4.14 billion.

Domestic trips took the lion’s share of the travel budget. But foreign travel also rose substantially from Sh632 million to Sh1.17 billion.

READ: Uhuru's many foreign trips strain State House budget

The MPs’ foreign travel budget could still rise significantly in the coming financial year if they manage to have the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) grant them higher perks they have been pushing for.

Travel allowances for MPs were slashed by the salaries team in December to be in line with global benchmarks and help the State curb rising recurrent expenditure but parliamentarians are seeking a review of the night-out allowances.

Overall, the government spend on travel increased to Sh10.8 billion from Sh9.2 billion while hospitality expenditure was up marginally to Sh4.1 billion from Sh3.9 billion, highlighting the impact of the nearly triple growth recorded by the presidency on this item.

The Jubilee government early last year announced a tight austerity programme aimed at cutting spending on non-core activities.

The spending cut plan deepened with the announcement that top public officials, led by Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto, had offered to take a 20 per cent pay cut, a pledge that is yet to be implemented.

The government has also told the International Monetary Fund of plans to cut some non-priority spending this financial year to balance the books after its borrowing costs rose.