Austerity measures clash with spending trends: Why the government must walk the talk.

  • 5 Apr 2024
  • 2 Mins Read
  • 〜 by James Ngunjiri

The government has been issuing edicts ordering spending cuts across the executive, ministries, departments, and agencies as part of austerity measures that have been rolled out.

Despite all these edicts, the government is still profligate. For instance, a recent report from the Controller of Budget office indicated that travel costs for different state agencies went up by Ksh3 billion to Ksh11 billion over the first six months (July – December 2023) of the current financial year. 

This was observed as the National Treasury halved the travel budget for entities, restricted government officials who could travel by air on domestic routes, and prohibited non-essentials such as tea, lunch, and water for public servants.

Additionally, reports that the Deputy President’s office spent Ksh10.2 million on curtains and the State House overshot its budget by Ksh447 million for the half-year (July – December 2023), are dealing a blow to austerity measures the same government has been advocating. President William Ruto’s foreign trips have also come under fire, even though he has defended them as critical to his duties. 

A year ago, in April, the chairperson of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), Dr David Ndii, alleged that the government was extremely wasteful in terms of spending, adding that the independent institutions in the country were unable to salvage the situation. 

“The independent institutions like the Auditor-General, Controller of Budget, and investigative agencies in the country are helpless and are unable to solve the current situation of wastage,” he said. 

He suggested that the government needs to put more systems in place to achieve more value for money, noting that automation around procurement could help the government be more cost-effective.  

Kenyans are upset by the government’s spending spree. 

What’s being done

After President Ruto pronounced himself, the relevant arms of the government moved with speed to unveil a raft of interventions that would see budgets allocated for travel and accommodation of state officers within and outside the country drastically slashed.

The National Treasury started issuing austerity measures to curb government waste. On December 13, 2023, the Treasury issued a circular directing all ministries, departments and agencies, including state corporations, to ensure prudent and responsible utilisation of public resources as provided for in the Constitution and other relevant laws.

This was in tandem with government efforts to reduce budgetary pressure by state corporations, enhance efficiency, ensure they are self-sustaining, and generate additional revenue for the exchequer.

Each state corporation was ordered to resubmit its 2024/2025 financial year recurrent expenditure budget, which had been rationalised to a level that is not more than 70 percent of the approved 2023/2024 fiscal year budget. As a result, all submitted 2024/2025 financial year budgets by state corporations were reverted to their respective corporations for rationalisation and required to be resubmitted through the Government Investments Management Information System (GIMIS) by April 2, 2024. 

In efforts to embrace technology in the provision of government services, the government has operationalised digital platforms to enhance service delivery. Among them are the e-citizen platform for revenue collection and the Government Investments Management Information System (GIMIS) for budget submission and reporting.

On April 2, President Ruto said the government would reduce its spending plan for the financial year starting this July by 12 percent to Ksh3.7 trillion (USD$28.35 billion) in what he termed as efforts to attain a balanced budget in the next three years.

“We are reducing our budget from four points, almost Ksh4.2 trillion to Ksh3.7 trillion,” Reuters quoted the President as saying while addressing Kenyans in Ghana during a state visit. “We need to live within our means.”