Ben Agina, Standard (Nairobi), Jan. 30, 2006
A new report details how the Narc Government spent a whopping Sh878 million to buy luxury cars for its top officials.
The money was spent in the first two years of the Narc Administration, which ascended to power on pledges to curb wastage of public funds and root out corruption.
The Kibaki Government spent the money on top of the range limousines for its Cabinet ministers, assistant ministers and permanent secretaries, according to report, titled Living Large: Counting the Cost of Official Extravagance in Kenya.
The report, compiled by the Government appointed Kenya National Human Rights Commission (KNHCR), said the profligacy — which largely served the personal interests of Government officials — could have been avoided because the offices existed prior to the coming in of a new government.
The commission was, however, unable to establish the fate of cars used by the previous office bearers.
The report will be launched on Monday in Nairobi by the KNHCR executive director, Maina Kiai, barely a fortnight after The Standard revealed the extravagant display of luxurious vehicles.
Questions over priorities
Top government officials arrived in top of the range luxury vehicles at the School of Monetary Studies in Nairobi, for an induction seminar meeting presided over by President Kibaki on January 19.
Tragically, the verdict on wasteful Government expenditure will be made public even as a wave of hunger, thirst and death that has claimed the lives of humans and animals sweeps across the country.
Even more tragic is the fact that Kenya has been begging for famine relief assistance while channelling hundreds of millions into buying luxury cars.
The Government wastage raises questions over its priorities and commitment to ameliorating, if not altogether getting rid of poverty.
According to the report, the cars bought by the Government included 57 Mercedes Benz (38 E200K models, 16 E240, one ML270, two C200K and one S350) all worth Sh401 million.
There were also 42 Toyota Land Cruisers (a motley of Toyota Prados, GXs and VXs) worth at least Sh252.6 million and 17 Mitsubishi Pajeros worth at least Sh86.2million.
During the same period, three Range Rovers, two Land Rover Discoveries and a Freelander, all worth at least Sh55.4 million were bought.
Others were 13 Nissan Terranos at a cost of Sh40.7 million and nine Nissan Patrols, which cost the public Sh38.8 million.
‘Justice does not come cheap’
The Judiciary led the list of Government departments with the highest expenditure, clocking Sh82.5 million. “Justice, it would appear, does not come cheap,” concluded the report.
It was followed by the Ministry of Roads and Public Works, which spent Sh66 million and the Ministry of Water Resources with an expenditure of Sh48 million on expensive vehicles.
The most outrageous finding in the report is that the amount spent to pamper top Government officials is just about the same as that allocated under the Constituency Development Fund to assist 31 of the country’s poorest constituencies.
In other words, had the CDF committees in the 31 constituencies chosen to buy the same set of vehicles as the central government, they would have had to forgo all the projects they were funding during the year.
In Ganze, the country’s poorest constituency situated in Coast Province, this would have meant foregoing the Vitengeni Village Polytechnic project, emergency reserve, constituency bursary, grader, tractor, water survey among many others.
The Sh878 million is enough to see 25,000 Kenyan children through eight years of school.
The money would have been sufficient to provide full eight-year bursaries for all primary school pupils in Marsabit and Moyale districts.
The report recommends that officials involved in irregular car purchases be punished.
Guidelines should be revised
And to put an end to the wastage, the human rights watchdog recommends that the Government should revise its guidelines on the types of cars to be bought for its officials.
It says that public officers who do not comply should be named, shamed and made to pay for the excesses from personal funds.
Other suggested measures include a ban on purchase of luxury vehicles using public funds and that public servants be given loans to buy vehicles of their choice, then be provided with fixed fuel and maintenance allowances, as is the practice in Rwanda.
“Greater transparency should be exercised in the assignment of cars among senior officers,” the report states.
Other cost saving measures such as the use of pool fleets and hiring vehicles whenever need arises should be explored, the report says.
It further recommends that the process of buying cars be centralised to ensure uniformity and allow the Government to benefit from economies of scale through bulk orders.
“Greater transparency should be exercised both in assignment of cars among senior officers and in the use of civilian plates,” it concludes.