State officials spent Sh15.3 billion on travel and entertainment allowances in the nine months to March 2022, a 25 percent jump from the previous year on easing Covid-19 restrictions.
The latest data from the Controller of Budget (CoB) shows the expenditure was a Sh3.1 billion increase from the Sh12.2 billion spent in the nine months to March 2021 at the height of Covid-19 travel curbs.
Foreign travel expenditure by government officials rose by 160 percent or Sh2.4 billion to Sh3.9 billion in the review period.
The National Assembly accounted for Sh1.05 billion on foreign travel, making Members of Parliament (MPs) the biggest spenders in that category.
Spending on domestic travel increased to Sh8.4 billion from the Sh7.7 billion recorded the year before, with MPs accounting for 32 percent of the expenditure at Sh1.05 billion.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) tripled its domestic travel spend to Sh609 million from the Sh200.72 million spent in the corresponding period the year before, highlighting preparations for the just-concluded August General Elections.
The electoral body’s expenditure on foreign travel shot to Sh129.9 million in the nine months to March from Sh4.6 million the previous year.
Other big spenders on domestic travel were the State Department of Interior and Coordination Services at Sh919 million, the Parliamentary Service Commission with Sh956 million, the Judiciary at Sh596 million and the Executive Office of the President at Sh294.7 million.
The increased spending on travel highlights the impact of easing Covid-19 control measures such as airlines resuming international flights after months of disruption when the nations shut their borders to tame the spread of the coronavirus.
State officials' spend on snacks and refreshments (hospitality) increased slightly to Sh3.08 billion from Sh3 billion. The rise highlights the gradual resumption of working from offices and the removal of limits on the number of people allowed in a gathering.
In 2020, Kenya suspended international passenger travel, closed schools indefinitely, shut down bars and golf clubs and imposed a daily dusk-to-dawn curfew as well as banned public gatherings to curb the spread of the virus.
The pause in meetings denied national government and parastatals staff opportunities to boost their wages through perks such as mileage, sitting and subsistence allowances earned from local and foreign travels.
The increase in travel spending highlights the government’s struggles to rein in foreign trips that have repeatedly been flagged as major forms of wastage of taxpayers’ funds.
Top government officials use overseas trips — which often involve lavish travel allowances— to boost their pay.
Kenyan MPs are some of the best paid in the world mainly due to the lucrative allowances they draw from their foreign trips.
In 2019, National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Mr Ukur Yatani announced budget cuts on non-essential items such as trips, training and car expenses in an effort to streamline government spending.
The Teachers Service Commission was the biggest spender under training at Sh514 million, followed by the Ministry of Health at Sh128 million.