DP Ruto gets Sh100m more for travel in mini-budget

Deputy President William Ruto. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • The allocation represents a 163 per cent increase above the Sh61 million that Mr Ruto was to spend on local travel this year.

Deputy President William Ruto has been allocated an extra Sh100 million for local travel in the revised budget that was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, even as the government maintains it is committed to cutting non-essential spending.

The allocation contained in a mini-budget represents a 163 per cent increase above the Sh61 million that Mr Ruto was to spend on local travel this year.

It comes barely a month after President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered that travel budgets for ministries, departments and agencies be cut by half to funnel more funds into development spending.

Robert Shaw, a Nairobi economist, described the 163 per cent budget increase for Mr Ruto’s office as going above acceptable margins, saying a 10-20 per cent rise would be appropriate.

“Whatever public duties he is doing, we have to bear in mind that there has to be more prudent use of public resources,” Mr Shaw said.

“This is especially so if you consider that some of this is borrowed money and that there is a desperate need for money to be spent on basic services like education and health.”

Overall, the Office of the Deputy President has been allocated an extra Sh271 million in the mini-budget — to be spent in the remaining three months of the fiscal year ending June.

The additional amount is earmarked for payment of rent and other office expenses.

The massive increase in budgetary allocation to the Deputy President’s office is even more discomforting because Treasury secretary Henry Rotich also used the mini-budget to cut development spending by Sh49.1 billion while expanding the recurrent budget by Sh8.1 billion.

The development expenditure cut means less cash in the hands of contractors that might result in a slowdown of demand for manufactured products such as steel and cement.

Government suppliers are also likely to be hit hard by delayed or non-payment for goods and services delivered. 

Mr Ruto’s exhaustion of his travel budget before the end of the year indicates a heavy domestic travel diary he has maintained in recent months attending fundraisers, church services and political campaigns.

Most recently, Mr Ruto was at the forefront of the Jubilee coalition’s by-election campaigns in the Coast and Rift Valley.

Mr Kenyatta has not been very active politically but has spent most of his time travelling abroad, leaving his deputy to drive Jubilee’s political activities ahead of the General Election next year. 

With slightly over a year to go before the August 2017 election, the political activity, which Mr Ruto has been spearheading, is expected to intensify.

Mr Ruto, who harbours presidential ambitions himself, has visited central Kenya multiple times on fundraisers, causing the opposition to demand an audit of his wealth.

Mr Ruto has dismissed the demands as baseless. Earlier this year, the Deputy President was in Western Kenya on a charm offensive that is seen as the Jubilee government’s attempt to win the region that is predominantly in the opposition ahead of next year’s elections.

The increase in Mr Ruto’s local travel budget clashes with the Jubilee government’s stated austerity plans and runs contrary to the weak state of public finance.

The State has been grappling with falling tax revenues and missed borrowing targets that in the past resulted in a cash crunch, prompting the current review.

The cut in the country’s spending plans follows reports that the Kenya Revenue Authority had fallen behind its tax collection targets by Sh47.6 billion as at end of December.

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