Spending on government officials’ overseas trips nearly doubled in the year to June to Sh6.4 billion, defying an austerity drive to curb non-essential expenditure.
The Controller of Budget (CoB) report shows that more than 90 percent of ministries and other state-backed agencies like Parliament increased their foreign travel spend after blowing Sh3.6 billion in the year to June 2017.
The 78 percent rise in 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.
Foreign Affairs ministry and Parliament accounted for the largest share of the jump, underlining diplomats and lawmakers appetite for foreign travel.
Both units saw the foreign travel spend jump to Sh4.2 billion in the period under review from Sh1. 6 billion, reflecting a 137 percent jump.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, also more than doubled their foreign travel costs to Sh196.6 million, marking their return to making trips abroad after the 2017 General Election campaigns.
Data from the CoB shows the Presidency — occupied Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto — spent Sh99 million on foreign trips in the year to June 2018, a period when Kenya was in the middle of two presidential elections.
The drop in Mr Kenyatta’s foreign travel bill last year was linked to the campaign period when the Presidency focused more on domestic tours to woo voters.
Kenya had a prolonged and volatile electioneering period due to repeat presidential polls in October 2017 ordered by the Supreme Court after the August 8 poll was found to be irregular.
The jet-setting ways of top officials have been criticised due to their huge delegations including what opposition leaders have called “quite a number of joy riders.”
Last week, the Treasury announced what it called “brutal” cuts to spending, including on government officials’ foreign trips to curb the rising recurrent expenditure.
Acting Treasury Secretary Ukur Yatani said all noncore expenditure will be reviewed to ensure the government can make savings and fund its programmes without relying too much on debt.
“The cuts will be brutal and sustained... because the success of this government will depend on our dignity as a country to be self-sufficient,” he told a public meeting to plan the budget for the next fiscal year.
Mr Yatani singled out overseas trips by State officials — which often involve lavish travel allowances — and advertising by government departments as examples of wasteful spending.
The use of State vehicles and the size of government delegations for foreign meetings will also be limited to help the State make savings, the CS added.
The Treasury has joined the list of ministries whose expenses on foreign trips more than doubled in the year to June.
The Treasury’s spending on overseas trips rose 436 percent to Sh69.7 million.
Other ministries that recorded a steep rise in foreign travel expenditure are Devolution (750 percent), Water (117 percent) and university education (106 percent).