Kenya Constitution: Civic Education Funding Suspect

Published on 7th June 2010

The Prime Minister of Kenya's release of Kshs 553 Million in addition to the recently released KSH 100 Million to fund “Civic education” on the Draft Constitution is yet another example of government run amok. Only in Kenya, it seems, is the big man syndrome a permanent reality and rules of law doesn't  apply to the highest officials in government. 

What may on the surface look as the right thing to do is in fact bad public discourse. Odinga’s announcement was not only impulsive but also a clear contradiction to proper government procurement and program funding procedures he is required to uphold as coordinator and supervisor of government ministries; this was nothing less than abuse of power by someone too concerned about politics than proper adherence to the rule of law.

By rushing to upstage others in a coalition government  supposedly founded on the principle of “consultation,” the PM’s unilateral announcement may in fact be such a big violation of budget and spending regulations. It is not just the bravado which accompanied the announcement given the fact that the PM had just returned to the country from South Africa and explicitly claimed personal credit for making the funds available and that any misunderstanding is due to his absence from the country or the  giant ego exhibited to the media! No, far from it folks. It is the fact that government rules on budget procurements, allocations and program funding by all accounts have been severely compromised by the Prime Minister’s announcement:

First, Kshs 553 Million is no small change for one person to unilaterally make available in an impromptu meeting. Kenya, like any modern day country, has its rules and procedures and controls which govern government financing, budget allocations and actual spending. Such rules do not give the Prime Minister such a wide personal discretion or latitude in making declarations touching on tax payer funds on his own without proper controls and observation of the rules.

In Kenya, parliament has the “power of the purse.” Parliament, NOT the executive (the President and the PM and the President’s cabinet) can approve fund allocation as submitted by the Finance Minister in a national budget. The procedure and sequence are very clear: the Finance Minister presents a budget before parliament, Parliament debates its contents and approves or remands it back to the Finance Minister for revision, the president agrees to the budget and then it becomes law; then funds are made available, not the other way round or backwards as the Prime Minister is doing, making changes after the fact or preempting the budgeting process by himself on his own!

The Prime Minister is a member of the executive whose role is distinctly defined as “supervisor and coordinator” of government ministries. Nowhere in that definition is the authority, explicit or implied, the power to authorize such ad hoc astronomical patchwork monetary  disbursement at random  without Parliament’s advise and consent. He needs to explain to Kenyans where and how he can transact or authorize such mega funding on his own! Where is the requisition from the CoE?

The PM’s claim that funds will be “relocated” from an already approved  budget is perhaps the most unfortunate statement from a high ranking government official. Our laws do not permit him to preempt a budget which is yet to be submitted to parliament for debate and approval. He can only request such an allocation, not usurp its authority altogether.

Second, the PM’s “allocation” is extremely exaggerated: 284%. The CoE requested Kshs 230 Million, in the last two weeks, they received KSH 100 Million, Odinga’s announcement tops the total allocation at Kshs 653 Million, way above and beyond what was actually requested! Why? This is clearly suspect. The last time extra funds were allocated to projects beyond their actual true value/price tag was with the “Single Sourced” Maize purchases during the famine and extra payment for a cemetery in Mavoko. The PM has also been asked why the Draft copies were costing Kshs 100/copy when the published price is just Kshs28/copy and in his infinite wisdom responded that it is an “internal matter”! Kenyans have no right to be told how their tax money is being spent?

A few months ago, the PM was asked by US Ambassador why Ministers  and other high ranking officials were paid US 1,000.00/day per diem when they travel overseas while the economy was so weak and Kenyans still suffered in IDP camps  and he responded that Kenya is a sovereign nation, really?! My point folks is that this enduring pattern is just bad.

Why is the funding for the CoE civic education exercise more urgent than IDPs who have been languishing in camps for more than two years? Why has the CoE  been allocated more money than it requested for? Which ministries and programs have been starved of funds as a result of the PM’s announcement? Let’s start demanding answers from our government. Unless we hold it to account, it will always trample on us.  

By David Ochwangi
The author can be reached at [email protected]

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