Revelations that the country once again overshot the budget in an international lobbying junket sends the wrong message at a time when we are trying to enforce austerity amid a revenue shortfall and rising debt.
Kenya’s decision to spend Sh437.8 million in the bid to capture the African Union Commission chair position for Amina Mohamed was in itself questionable, which makes the revelation that this was Sh52.1 million above budget an even harder pill to swallow.
The confidential expenditure vote at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has always been a grey area, which is prone to abuse if not well checked.
Granted, Kenya must lobby in order to land some of these international posts, and this will inevitably come at a cost to the taxpayer.
However, marking these expenditures as secret and refusing to divulge the breakdown can only serve to raise suspicion among members of the public that money may have been lost to unscrupulous hands.
The reason that Parliament, as the people’s representative, has been given oversight over public expenditure is so that the taxpayer can be satisfied that the country’s resources are being utilised in the right way, and in a way that confers maximum benefit to the largest number of citizens.
There are many needy areas that are yet to be sufficiently financed in the country, key among them healthcare, education and infrastructure.
These should take priority over expenditure on lobbying, unless the benefit to Kenyans can be clearly shown.
Kenyans must now be wondering what the true cost of the latest lobbying effort—the campaign for a United Nations Security Council non-permanent seat— will come to.
Under the current laws however, whether or not we are above or below budget, the breakdown will never be known. As such, we are calling for better disclosure around these secret accounts held by government ministries.
This demand is borne out of the expectation that the executive arm of government will lead in enforcing the austerity measures and responsible spending, which is now being demanded by a strained economy.
This will help the taxpayer know whether we are getting value for money, especially in cases such as the AUC effort that yielded a defeat at the final ballot for Kenya’s candidate.