EDITORIAL: Enforce austerity measures to end profligate spending

National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, November 8, 2016. FILE | PHOTO | NMG
National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, November 8, 2016. FILE | PHOTO | NMG 

Reports that government departments are seeking an additional Sh1 billion in a mini-budget to finance foreign travel and entertainment is, to say the least, grossly insensitive.

It totally defeats logic why the Cabinet secretaries would want the Treasury to raise their spend on trips and leisure when elsewhere, Kenyans are grappling with shortage and high prices of food.

That the government is already grappling with an overflow of avoidable expenses only shows how people in position of power have detached themselves from the realities ordinary Kenyans are facing.

When cash is tight, it is items such as entertainment, conferencing, official trips, luxury cars, and entertainment that should be the first targets for trimming. Perhaps not so for Kenya.

Half-year data from the Controller of Budget shows that spending on foreign travel more than doubled to Sh3.5 billion in the six months to December, up from Sh1.5 billion in the same period last year.

During that period, entertainment spending grew from Sh1.7 billion to Sh2 billion. That an additional Sh55 million was voted for foreign travel and Sh472 million for hospitality across ministries, just days to the end of the financial year on June 30, uncovers a dangerous trend that must be checked.

We concur with Parliament’s Budget and Appropriations Committee (BAC) that the extra cash needs to be interrogated carefully.

It is unhelpful for the government to continue preaching austerity when all it does is splurge money on non-essential items. It is time to end profligate spending in government.

Kenyans are groaning under a heavy burden because the government has chosen to add the cost of building huge infrastructure projects on an already overstretched recurrent budget.

To patch up the huge financing gap, the government which can hardly finance 50 per cent of its annual budget from taxes has been forced to resort to heavy domestic and foreign borrowing.

If Kenya is to continue building its Vision 2030 projects without upsetting its fiscal environment, it must put a firm grip on non-essential expenditure.  Unfortunately,  it is the top political offices that have been the top violators.