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Travel costs at five-year high in President Ruto’s first nine months


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The Controller of Budget Dr Margaret Nyakangó during the launch of the third quarter budget implementation report for the National and County governments for the year 2022/23 at EKA Hotel, Nairobi County on June 14, 2023. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

Government officials gobbled Sh14 billion on travel in the nine months ended March — the highest in a similar period in at least five years.

The latest Controller of Budget (CoB) data show travel perks for foreign and local trips jumped by Sh1.62 billion from Sh12.4 billion splashed in a similar period a year ago.

The rise comes on the back of a globe-trotting spree by top public officials, notably Cabinet secretaries, with the government saying the trips are of strategic value to Kenya.

Read: State spend on travel, entertainment up by Sh3bn

This is the highest amount that top government officials have splashed in the first nine months of a financial year in at least five years, revealing the appetite for trips, especially foreign ones that attract lucrative per diems.

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“The National Assembly recorded the highest domestic travel at Sh2.85 billion while Foreign Affairs recorded the most increased foreign travel at Sh1.43 billion,” said CoB Margaret Nyakang’o in the report.

Other agencies that posted significant growth on their travel bill include the Presidency with a 113 percent jump to Sh681 million.

The Parliamentary Service Commission recorded a rise of 18.5 percent to Sh1.86 billion while the bill for MPs grew four percent to Sh4 billion.

The data shows that spending on foreign trips grew by Sh720 million in the nine months to Sh4.67 billion while the domestic travel bill increased higher at Sh900 million to Sh9.39 billion.

The National Treasury has over the years struggled to rein in trips abroad and cut wastage through bench-marking trips and oversized delegations.

Tickets, allowances and accommodation costs vary depending on the airlines and the destination. Some of the cities where government officials rake in high allowances include Geneva, Dubai and Washington DC.

Foreign trips have come at the expense of squeezing funds for delivery of basic services like health and roads pushing the government to rely on loans to fund the projects.

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MPs and officials at ministries, parastatals and State departments have in the past been linked to a spike in travel abroad in the second half of the financial year in a rush to exhaust the budgetary allocations on foreign trips.

While the Ministry of foreign affairs has traditionally been a big spender on foreign travel because it spearheads Kenya’s diplomatic strategy, the trade ministry emerged as a major driver of the increased travel bill.

An analysis by the Business Daily early this year revealed that Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria had travelled out of the country more times than his Foreign Affairs counterpart Alfred Mutua.

Read: Civil servants pocket record Sh1bn monthly travel perks

Mr Kuria had defended the frequent trips citing the critical role of his ministry in opening more trade opportunities for Kenyans abroad.

“In all these tours, I was not sending myself. I was appointed a special envoy by President William Ruto to talk to our neighbours and try to re-establish our leadership in the region and to push through agreements of strategic value to Kenya,” Mr Kuria said.

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