President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto increased their travel expenditure by 62.4 percent or Sh203 million in the six months to December 2019 despite the government’s austerity drive to curb spend.
Latest data from the Controller of Budget (CoB) shows the Presidency, which comprises the offices of the President and the deputy, spent Sh527.5 million on travel in the period compared to Sh324.8 million in the similar period in 2018.
Expenditure on travel for the State ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) increased by Sh1.3 billion to Sh8.85 billion compared to a similar period a year before.
This was so even as the National Treasury promised “brutal” cuts to spending, including on government officials’ foreign trips to curb the rising recurrent expenditure.
This is meant to reduce the pressure to borrow to finance the budget, especially now that the debt to GDP ratio for the country has gone past the 60 percent mark, rising questions about the sustainability of public debt.
The Presidency’s foreign travel costs more than doubled to Sh111 million from Sh53.2 million a year earlier, as Mr Kenyatta and his deputy increased their count of foreign trips since their re-election.
In the period between July and December 2019, President Kenyatta made State visits to Jamaica and Japan (in August), New York in September, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Russia in October to boost bilateral ties.
In the latest CoB data, taxpayers forked out Sh416.5 million on domestic travel for the Presidency compared to Sh271.6 million spent the previous year.
During the review period, Dr Ruto intensified domestic travels, causing discomfort among a section of the ruling Jubilee coalition who claimed he was carrying out early campaigns for the 2022 elections.
Mr Kenyatta’s frequent foreign trips in the two years of his first term in office had attracted debate, with critics saying it ran the risk of setting the tone for other public officials to spend public funds on similar travels.
During his travels, the President is usually accompanied by large delegations, including his security detail and senior government officials who draw hefty sums in allowances.
State House has in the past been forced to defend Mr Kenyatta’s frequent trips abroad, arguing that the majority of the travels have the potential to attract foreign investments that would help lift the country’s fortunes and generate employment opportunities.