Economy

Covid-19 travel restrictions save taxpayers Sh1 billion in MPs per diem

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Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Disrupted foreign travel due to coronavirus saved taxpayers more than Sh1 billion on per diem for MPs in the nine months to March.

Data from the Controller of Budget (CoB) shows that MPs spent Sh120.04 million on foreign trips, a 90 percent drop from the Sh1.2 billion spent in the corresponding period last year.

The drop came at a time lawmakers were forced to go slow on travel as countries cautiously eased the coronavirus-induced bans on international flights.

Kenya had suspended foreign flights from March last year but lifted the ban in July.

International meetings, conferences, and benchmarking trips took a hit as they remained suspended or were held virtually, denying MPs the hefty perks on foreign trips.

Some of the destinations popular with MPs for benchmarking trips and conferences are Dubai, UK, and Switzerland where the lawmakers earn more than Sh130,000 per diem per night.

“Some budget items recorded low levels of expenditure, which was attributed to the impact of coronavirus disease mitigation measures adopted by the government to curb the spread of the disease,” CoB Margaret Nyakang’o said in the report.

“Those affected were Travelling, Training and Hospitality activities which are some of the major spending budget items by the MDAs [ministries, departments, and agencies].”

A circular from the Parliamentary Service Commission shows that MPs from Senate and the National Assembly earn Sh139, 838 ($1,296) per diem a night in Singapore, followed by trips to the US where they are paid Sh129,048 ($1,196).

A trip to London earns MPs Sh119,553 ($1,108) per night and Sh118,905 ($1,102) in Swiss cities that include Geneva. Trips to Dubai, one of the most popular destinations for MPs, pay Sh95,921 ($889) in per diem.

MPs have in recent years attracted public outcry over the frequent trips abroad that the National Treasury has singled out as wasteful spending.

But the lawmakers have returned to the foreign trips in the last two months in a bid to spend budget allocated for foreign travel before the financial year ends this month.