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Economy

MPs slash Sh8bn from NYS budget in graft fight

Parliament session. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Parliament session. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Parliament has slashed the annual budgetary allocation to the National Youth Service (NYS) by Sh8.25 billion, dealing yet another blow to the besieged State agency that is embroiled in a mega theft scandal.

The NYS will now get Sh10.11 billion in the next financial year starting July, down from Sh18.36 billion that had been due to them in the Treasury allocation that was tabled by Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich last month.

The cut has been made on the NYS development expenditure vote, which now falls from Sh10.92 billion to Sh2.67 billion. The agency’s recurrent expenditure remains unchanged at Sh7.44 billion.

The deep cut will effectively cripple the NYS youth empowerment programme in 69 informal settlements, which was to get Sh9.7 billion out of the development expenditure vote.

Parliament’s Budget and Appropriations Committee chaired by Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa, which has proposed the cut, says that government agencies implicated in misuse of public money will be targets for lower allocations in future.

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“The committee has endeavoured to reduce in a targeted way, allocations to agencies with numerous audit queries relating to misuse of public money. Similarly, the committee has proposed removal or reduction of spurious allocations, particularly those allocations in the budget estimates without proper justification and performance targets,” says the committee in its report tabled on Tuesday.

Fraud

The NYS has been reeling from its latest scandal where up to Sh8 billion is suspected to have been lost through fraudulent payments to firms without supplying any goods to the agency.

Fourty-three suspects, including NYS director-general Richard Ndubai and Public Service and Youth principal secretary Lilian Mbogo-Omollo, have been charged in court in the past one week in connection to the scandal. They remain in custody after a Nairobi court denied them bail on Tuesday.

Parliament has ordinarily been adopting the recommendations of this Budget committee in previous years with minimal changes. The approval is set to be debated and passed by close of business today, which is the end of the stipulated three-day period since the committee tabled the report.

Overall, the Public Service and Youth ministry’s allocation has been cut from Sh25.8 billion to Sh17.5 billion, mainly reflecting the NYS funding slash.

In effect, the proposal leaves the NYS — and by extension the ministry — only enough funds to cover administrative costs such as salaries, allowances, running costs for training schools and the headquarters and minimal maintenance work on facilities.

The NYS was also in the news three years ago following the loss of Sh791 million meant for the construction of a road in Kibera, Nairobi. The scandal ended up costing the then Devolution and Planning Secretary, Anne Waiguru, her job when she was forced to resign under sustained public pressure.

Parliament’s move to cut the NYS allocation on the back of corruption allegations indicates that the House is adopting a strategy of starving corrupt institutions of funds as a way of fighting the vice, which has been negatively affecting the economy by denying deserving projects much needed financing.

Thousands of youth who have been getting temporary jobs under the empowerment programme are however set to be the biggest losers in the downscaling of NYS’ budget.

The programme that was launched in June 2015 is intended to offer unemployed youth temporary jobs while giving them skills they can later use to secure permanent employment or start businesses.

Wages for temporary employees had been allocated Sh3.3 billion by the Treasury in the budget estimates for 2018/19, up from Sh3.2 billion in the previous fiscal year.

A total of Sh2.2 billion was also earmarked for purchase of fuel and lubricants, specialised plant, equipment and machinery for the programme.

The reduced funds also call into question the government’s plans to use the NYS to drive the recovery of the textile industry.

In February President Uhuru Kenyatta said the NYS had been allocated 100,000 acres of the Galana-Kulalu Complex and the model National Irrigation farm in the Tana Delta, where it was expected to grow cotton with the aim of creating up to 50,000 jobs in the apparel industry.

The President also directed that all uniforms of security forces be made at the NYS textile and garment technology institute in Ruaraka, Nairobi.

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