EDITORIAL: Stop paying lip service to austerity measures

The National Treasury building in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG
The National Treasury building in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Reports that the ICT ministry spent Sh104 million to buy fuel guzzlers against government policy and beyond their approved budget makes a mockery of the current austerity measures in State agencies.

There is little doubt that the country is in dire fiscal shape and has generally been so for a few years now. The current situation ordinarily calls for austerity, which is what the government has been implementing, at least on paper.

But it seems for most politicians and bureaucrats—starting from the top to bottom—austerity is a burden designed to be borne by the long-suffering taxpayers.

There is no other way to explain reports of top offices and those further down habitually engaging in profligate expenditure even at times of severe drought and massive theft of public resources? According to the Auditor General, the ministry bought 23 luxury cars against the 12 it was cleared to buy. It irregularly overshot its budget.

This at a time when the government has shifted to leasing vehicles, which is a best practice for firms and States globally. The ICT ministry’s buying of cars does not make economic sense. That is unless the Treasury, which exempted them, comes out and declares that it has scrapped the policy.

The reports of profligate spending are even made worse by reports that the Treasury is set to do a mini-budget following a shortfall in revenue collection by Sh14 billion as it seeks to refocus on Jubilee’s four-pillar development blueprint.

Clearly, if bureaucrats are allowed to spend taxpayers’ cash as they want we might as well forget about development.

The Treasury must seek answers and punish the guilty.

At the same time, other watchdogs must support the Auditor General in seeing offenders are brought to book. Besides, the President in forming the next government should refer to the work of the Auditor General in putting the right people in place too.

To raise revenue collection requires that the government must also ruthlessly address leakages that have come to be accepted as the norm.