Top officials to seek Uhuru nod before foreign trips (Kenya)

By George ngigi | Business Daily, Kenya December 21, 2016

Top State officials, including Cabinet Secretaries and PSs, have been barred from making foreign trips without direct clearance from President Uhuru Kenyatta until after the next General Election in a fresh austerity drive.

Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua directed Cabinet secretaries to restrict foreign travel by top ministry officials and executives in State agencies to “very important issues”.

State officials have previously defied Mr Kenyatta’s austerity directives by embarking on a travel spending that pushed foreign trip costs for the year ended June 25.6 per cent above last year.

“Cabinet resolved to suspend all foreign travel by Cabinet secretaries, principal secretaries and other government officials until after the election,” said Mr Kinyua in a memo.

“Cabinet secretaries…may only travel with express clearance by the President. Cabinet secretaries to ensure foreign travel by officials in their ministries is restricted to very important issues and such travel must be cleared by the Cabinet secretaries in person.”

National government spending on foreign travel stood at Sh5.29 billion in the year ended June, up from Sh4.2 billion the previous year, according to Controller of Budget data.

The inclusion of Mr Kenyatta in the clearance process aims to curb the surge in expenses on non-essential activities against the President’s frequent directives that such spending be drastically reduced.

Mr Kenyatta in 2014 issued a raft of austerity directives to curb non-essential spending, but data from the Controller of Budget indicate that the President’s words had fallen on deaf ears.

Mr Kenyatta went further to propose that travel wallet cards be introduced for State officers and executives of State corporations to reduce use of travel budgets as a means of earning more money from the employer.

In February, the President again asked all State agencies, including counties, to cut their travel budgets and allowances to public officers by 50 per cent.

But the Controller of Budget reports show that spending on travel continued to grow over the past two years.

The data shows Parliament’s spending on foreign travel grew from Sh1.17 billion in the year to June 2015 to Sh1.6 billion this year.

The Foreign Affairs ministry in the year to June spent Sh1.94 billion on foreign trips, up from Sh1.57 billion the previous year.

The Presidency — which comprises State House and the Office of the Deputy President — was equally profligate in its spending on travel that rose 12.6 per cent to Sh240 million compared to the previous year.

The President and his deputy, William Ruto, have been criticised for their frequent-flier diaries that drain the public coffers. The two top leaders’ travelling budget is usually bloated by the fact that they are accompanied by a string of senior officials and security detail who draw hefty travel allowances.

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