Revelations that the Treasury spent Sh23 billion without the approval of Parliament, just two months into the new financial year, tell a lot about the government’s spending attitude.
Oddly, the expenditure was not on unforeseen bills as it included salaries, building of a military research hospital, disbursement to schools, and an undisclosed Telkom Kenya payment that ought to have been in the budget.
The Treasury has been habitually abusing the supplementary budget appropriation law, which allows it to withdraw funds from the Consolidated Fund without the approval of MPs and then table a mini-budget two months after.
The Constitution limits the expenditure to 10 percent of the appropriated sums. The new administration of President William Ruto has complained that it inherited a broke government with no cash at the Treasury.
It begs the question, why do we have a national budget each year if the Treasury doesn't seem to adhere to it? Is there a problem with the budget-making process that prompts recurrent supplementary budgets? Why has it not been addressed?
Parliament has also been too permissive, agreeing to rubberstamp the expenditures. And even when they reject some budget items, they are often not followed by appropriate action.
While MPs do cry foul of being made rubberstamps, that is not enough. They can come up with legislation to limit Treasury’s leeway by forcing it to seek approvals before disbursing the money.
We expect the 13th Parliament to do exactly that to help the government tame its spending appetite.