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Economy

Counties gobble Sh2.6bn on travel in three months

governors at devolution conference
A section of governors at devolution conference at Kakamega high school listening to address by former prime minister Raila Odinga on 25th April 2018. PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NMG 

County governments nearly tripled their spend on travel in the three months to September defying an austerity drive to curb non-essential expenditure.

The Controller of Budget (CoB) report shows the 47 devolved units spent Sh2.67 billion in the period, compared to the Sh1.02 a year before.

The 162 percent rise in domestic and foreign travel expense comes amid an austerity push by the Treasury to free up cash for development and essential services such as health and education.

“The County Governments incurred Sh2.67 billion on domestic and foreign travel during the reporting period … and was an increase compared to Sh1.02 billion spent in a similar period of FY 2017/18,” said CoB Agnes Odhiambo in the report.

Travel spend in national government rose 46 percent to Sh2.89 billion in the three months to September, underlining the sharp rise in the counties expenditure on trips.

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Taita Taveta led the list of top spenders in the review period at Sh145.5 million, followed by Migori (Sh135.4 million), Nairobi (Sh127.4 million) and Machakos (Sh120 million).

Overall, counties gobbled up Sh2.3 billion in domestic travel and Sh340.94 million on foreign travel in the three months.

County executives spent Sh1.4 billion on travel, accounting for 53.8 percent of the travel-linked consumption.

Governors have in the past received backlash for using conferences as an excuse to travel abroad with others attending meetings that are not in their mandate.

The high expenditure defies calls by the Treasury and President Uhuru Kenyatta for cuts on non-essential spending like catering and travel.

It comes amid governors’ opposition against fresh efforts by the Ministry of Devolution to curtail foreign travel as part of austerity measures.

Devolution Principal Secretary Charles Sunkuli in September wrote to all county secretaries and clerks of county assemblies giving new directives on how to cut foreign travel costs.

The fresh austerity push demands that before members of the county assembly (MCAs) or county executives travel abroad for seminars, tours or conferences, they must write a statement on how that trip will benefit the county.

Under the directive, top government officials are no longer allowed to travel outside the country without clearance from the president and domestic travel is also scrutinised.

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