By Hillary Mageka @hillarymageka
Even before the dust settles on the controversial Sh250,000 house allowance and Sh96,000 overnight claim by each of the 349 MPs, the lawmakers are once again on the spot over their growing appetite for foreign and domestic travel.
A new report by the Controller of Budget (CoB) indicts members of the National Assembly for spending Sh3.4 billion in foreign and domestic trips in nine months upto March 31, 2019.
However, during the period under review, MPs had a balance of Sh1 billion in their accounts to quench their rapacity for overseas and local travels.
Titled the National Government Budget Implementation Review Report, it, however, does not include the 67 Senators who were allocated Sh1.5 billion in foreign and domestic travel in the 2018/19 financial year.
In the year under review, the budget allocation for the 349 members of the National Assembly was pegged at Sh4.4 billion, up from Sh3.5 billion the previous year.
“Sh2.2 billion was incurred by the National Assembly on domestic travel and Sh1.2 billion on foreign travel,” reads the report by the Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo.
If the Sh2.2 billion reserved for domestic travel was to be shared equally among the 349 legislators, each would have pocketed at least Sh6.3 million in the nine months.
This is an equivalent of at least Sh700,000 a month per MP for local travel. The money is over and above the monthly mileage claims.
The frequency of travel seems to have accelerated as the financial year drew to a close, possibly because the legislators were determined to exhaust their budget allocation.
Their preferred domestic destination is Mombasa where they retreat to, especially for committee meetings. Naivasha is another favourite venue.
The report, which is likely to elicit public anger, also questions the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) over extravagant spending in foreign and domestic trips.
In the period under review, the commission spent about Sh1 billion on foreign trips and Sh699 million on domestic travel.
“The analysis in this report is largely based on the approved budget, receipts into the Consolidated Fund, exchequer issues, actual expenditure and a comparison of implementation status of development and recurrent programmes with a similar period of 2017/18 financial year,” she says in the report released yesterday.
PSC’s key mandate is to perform functions necessary for the welfare of the members and staff of Parliament. It includes providing services and facilities to ensure efficient and effective running of MPs’ affairs and welfare.
The commission is chaired by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and comprises seven members from the National Assembly and Senate, and two members of the public, one woman and a man, both experienced in public affairs.
Current members are MPs Naomi Shaban (Taita Taveta), who doubles as PSC vice-chair, Adan Keynan (Eldas), Benson Momanyi (Borabu), Aisha Jumwa (Malindi) and Senators George Khaniri (Vihiga), Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho) and Beth Mugo (Nominated). Lorna Mumelo and SamuelChepkong’a represent the public. Clerk of the Senate Jeremiah Nyegenye is the secretary of the commission.
In the 2018/19 financial year, PSC was allocated Sh5.9 billion for foreign and domestic travel, coming close to doubling the Sh3.2 billion that was reserved for the same purpose in the previous year.
In the same report, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, under the Presidency, have doubled their foreign travel expenditure in the nine months leading to March 2019.
They spent Sh190 million in the nine months compared to Sh99.4 million incurred during the same period in the previous year.
“The President and his deputy spent Sh420.7 million for domestic travel compared to Sh725 million in the same period a year earlier when the country was in the middle of two presidential polls,” the CoB report shows.
The decline in foreign travel spending in the preceding year can be attributed to the election period when the the President and his deputy were focused on re-election campaigns.
The country had a protracted election period that started ahead of the August 8, 2017 General Election and continued to the end of November when President Kenyatta was declared the winner after the repeat October presidential vote.
People Daily understands the bulk of the foreign trips spending in the period under review is attributed to Uhuru’s and his Cabinet Secretaries’ appetite for loans and grants to fund the President’s legacy programme, the Big Four agenda and key infrastructural projects.
Uhuru’s frequent foreign trips in the first three years of his first term attracted debate and criticism from the members of the public.
State House and the Foreign Affairs ministry have in the past defended the President’s travels, saying they had brought “huge benefits” to the country.
However, since his re-election and eventual unity deal with Opposition leader Raila Odinga, Uhuru has chosen to concentrate in building his legacy and engaging less in foreign trips and local politicking.
During the period under review (2018),Uhuru made 12 trips, two of them to China.
The Sh420.7 million domestic travel spending in the Presidency could be linked to Ruto’s frequent countrywide tours as he drums up support for his 2022 presidential bid.