Economy

Ministries, agencies spend Sh800m on entertainment

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Acting National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Government offices are on the spot for spending almost Sh1 billion on parties in the three months to September, raising priority questions as pending bills surged and weak economy pushed thousands of citizens out of jobs.
  • The period also saw auctioneer’s harmer fall on private property at an alarming rate over what has partly been blamed on failure by government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAS) to settle debts owed to suppliers and contractors.
  • Data from the Controller of Budget (CoB) shows the MDAs raised spending on parties and receptions in the period by Sh87.2 million to Sh806.1 million compared to Sh718.9 million spent in a similar period a year earlier.

Government offices are on the spot for spending almost Sh1 billion on parties in the three months to September, raising priority questions as pending bills surged and weak economy pushed thousands of citizens out of jobs.

The period also saw auctioneer’s harmer fall on private property at an alarming rate over what has partly been blamed on failure by government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAS) to settle debts owed to suppliers and contractors.

Data from the Controller of Budget (CoB) shows the MDAs raised spending on parties and receptions in the period by Sh87.2 million to Sh806.1 million compared to Sh718.9 million spent in a similar period a year earlier.

The increased spending on this “non-essential item” comes amid muted austerity push by the Treasury in efforts to free up cash for development and essential services such as health and education.

In September, acting National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani flagged overseas trips by government and hospitality or entertainment spend as examples of wasteful budgets.

He told ministries and State agencies to brace themselves for “brutal” budget cuts and promised to take against those who breach the guidelines.

The items targeted in the budget cuts include travel, entertainment, training, publicity and car costs — which set back taxpayers Sh30.1 billion in the year to June last year, up from Sh17.8 billion in 2013.

The government has been struggling to meet its revenue targets in an environment of job cuts and depressed earnings, forcing it to rump up borrowing.

The Treasury initially targeted nearly Sh1.81 trillion in total collections from income tax, value added tax (VAT), excise and import duty between July 2019 and June 2020, but this goal has been lowered by 6.02 percent to Sh1.7 trillion.

In the three months to September, the Presidency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs accounted for more than 50 percent of the total spend on entertainment by MDAs.

The data shows the Presidency, which comprises the offices of the President and the Deputy President, increased their entertainment budget to Sh174.6 million from Sh155 million a year earlier.

Foreign Affairs almost doubled its entertainment budget to Sh230.8 million in the review period from the Sh118 million spent at a similar period a year earlier.