Uproar over Ruto budget-cuts amid wastage

Legacy projects to lose substantial funding even as critics points to existing wastage in government

In Summary
  • Senators demand that government address wastage, scrap unnecessary offices.
  • Government will lose Sh346 billion that were to be raised in the withdrawn Finance Bill, 2024.
President William Ruto during an interview at Statehouse, Nairobi on June 30, 2024.
President William Ruto during an interview at Statehouse, Nairobi on June 30, 2024.
Image: PCS

President William Ruto has been put on the receiving end over his proposed radical multibillion budget cuts.

The cuts target crucial sectors amid claims of wastage in the public service.

The government indicated massive reorganisation of budget priorities in the face of the Sh346 billion hole in projected revenues.

Some of the areas Ruto initially earmarked for serious budget cuts include hiring of 46,000 JSS teachers, Universal Health Care and shelving of some of the multi-billion capital projects.

JSS is underfunded to the tune of Sh18.9 billion.

Ruto’s fertiliser subsidy programme, set to turn around agriculture was to also feel the heat of the reduced revenues.

But on Friday, he said he will propose a Sh177 billion budget cut to Parliament.

This will save budgets for  JSS teachers, intern doctors, fertiliser subsidy and the coffee debt waiver.

Social security project cash transfers for the elderly which was to get Sh5.5 billion will be affected alongside the the additional Sh30 million each MP was to receive in CDF funds.

The proposals have a triggered political storm with leaders questioning the government's priorities.

Opposition MPs who spoke to the Star said some budget cuts amount to blackmail.

They said there are other non-crucial areas that should be chopped.

“Why is it that every time we have a serious issue, the government is quick to reduce funding in Kerra or CDF, this is blackmail,” said Nyando MP Jared Okelo.

Mombasa Woman Representative ZamZam Mohammed said arm-twisting will not work on legislators.

“If reducing the budget is what will liberate our Kenyans then do away with the CDF but we will not allow the government to use this to intimidate us,” she said.

The reduction in expenditure to the tune of Sh346 billion, will also be borne by the devolved units.

Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong'o said the reduction is a scheme to kill devolution.

He said any reduced funding to counties will amount to travesty of justice on devolved governments whose share of revenue is based on the audited national accounts.

 "How can the President purport to base the failed Finance Bill on the division of revenue allocations, which are calculated on a budget of three years ago?" he asked.

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja said reducing counties allocation will be a breach of the law.

He said no amendment can be done to the Division of Revenue Bill which has already been signed by the President.

The Bill splits the spending between the national and county governments.

“The law is very clear that where there is a shortfall, the national government will bear,” Sakaja told the Star.

Senators are on the other hand questioning the massive wastage in the government and loopholes which they insist should first be sealed before starving crucial dockets.

Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna said wastage and extravagance in government institutions can be moped up and rechannelled.

The lawmaker who is the Senate Deputy Minority Leader said crazy amounts are allocated to leaders when Kenyans are finding it hard to put food on the table.

“We need to relook at our budgets and see where we can make major cuts for the public to feel we're lessening the budget,” Sifuna said.

“When I became the Deputy Minority Whip, I was allocated a GK vehicle. On the first day that I used that car to go home, I used the expressway. I was shocked at the amount of money that is on my ETC card for my Parliamentary car. As of this morning, when I used that same car to come here, there is Sh377,000 on my ETC card.”

Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale called for abolition of unconstitutional offices that are a burden to taxpayers.

The Senate Chief Whip singled out offices of First Lady, Spouse of the Deputy President, Spouse of the Prime Cabinet Secretary and county first ladies.

“Those are private family issues that should never be brought to the public,” Khalwale said.

The offices of First Lady and Second Lady were allocated Sh.1.2 billion in the withdrawn Finance Bill.

First Lady’s office was to get Sh696.6 million while the Second Lady’s was allocated Sh557.5 million.

Ruto has already agreed to let go the two offices as part of the austerity measures.

He made the announcement during a media roundtable at State House.

Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua last week challenged Ruto to consider reducing his Cabinet size from the current 21 to 14 cabinet secretaries.

“The Constitution states that the President can appoint 14-22 CSs. Right now, we have 21. I call on the President, as a demonstration that he has listened to what the people say, to reduce the size of his Cabinet from 21 to 14,” he said.

Wambua also called for a merge of state departments and consequentially principal secretaries from 51 to 14.

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s lawyer Paul Mwangi said the country stands to save billions if some of the unnecessary expenditures are scaled down.

"Limit mileage claims to one visit to the constituency per month," Mwangi said on his X account.

“Scrap all foreign travel for the remainder of the term of this Parliament. Scrap all sitting allowances. Committee members to be paid a fixed extra-responsibility allowance every month.”

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